Sunderland tower blocks now clear of cladding that would fail safety tests, confirms Gentoo

Gentoo remove cladding from flats at Church Street North, Sunderland.
Gentoo remove cladding from flats at Church Street North, Sunderland.
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Housing chiefs have confirmed that there are no longer any tower blocks in Sunderland which have cladding that would fail new fire safety tests.

Following the Grenfell Tower tragedy in London almost a fortnight ago in which 79 have died, hundreds of tower blocks around the country have had cladding tested to see if they are safe.

Although no blocks in Sunderland had the same cladding that was used at Grenfell, over the weekend five blocks of high-rise flats operated by housing company Gentoo in the St Peter’s area of the city had cladding removed after it failed fire safety tests.

The highest safety score available in the testing is 0, and the lowest is 3 - which is what some of the cladding on the Sunderland flats was rated as.

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) confirmed that the panels had failed combustibility tests carried out by the Building Research Establishment.

Church Street, Dock Street, Zetland, Victor and Dame Dorothy had decorative panels removed following the results of tests.

Now however, bosses at Gentoo have now said that no other blocks in their housing stock have the same panels as those which were removed from buildings in the St Peter’s area on Saturday.

Company chief executive John Craggs said in a statement: “Last week we were advised by the DCLG to submit samples of our aluminium panels to the Building Research Establishment (BRE) for testing.

“On Saturday we were informed by the BRE that these panels were classed as category three.

“We understand that this categorisation means that whilst meeting building regulations, it does not meet the latest DCLG test criteria.

“As a precautionary measure we took the decision to remove them.

“This represents a very small amount of decorative panels from five high rise blocks in the St Peter’s area of the city.

“I can confirm that no other Gentoo-owned blocks have these types of panel.

“Customer safety is of paramount importance to us so we acted immediately and I can confirm that all of these panels have now been removed from these buildings.

“Regular communication with our customers is incredibly important and we are carrying out face-to-face reassurance with all of the residents living in these buildings, as part of this exercise.

“All of this activity has been coordinated in conjunction with Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service and we will continue to work in partnership with them to ensure the ongoing safety of our customers, which is our key priority.”