ISLE OF DOGS Independent Councillor Maium Miah has spent the last few days chasing landlords to provide answers on tower block safety – starting with One Housing Group, the controversial landlord which owns and manages a number of tower blocks the Isle of Dogs which have a large number of social tenants.
Cllr Miah put seven direct points on safety to One Housing Group’s Chief Executive.
- What actions have been undertaken by OHG in relation to reassurance and compliance?
- How many tower blocks managed by OHG in Tower Hamlets have not had fire safety inspections in the last year?
- How many properties have had fire inspections in the last year and what were the results?
- Have all recommendations been implemented?
- Has Harley Facades ever been used as a contractor (or by a contractor as a subcontractor)?
- Are all refurbishments OHG has done up to date and compliant with the lastest fire safety regulations and best practice – in particular tower blocks?
- Can the latest news and advice on fire safety be produced in community languages?
Cllr Miah has received an interim reply from One Housing Group – which says they are working on some of the matters Cllr Miah has raised and hope to respond as soon as possible. This timescale is slightly worrying. If OHG had been very conscious of fire safety procedures, it should have been able to put its hands on the documentation very quickly – certainly by now, four days after the Grenfell fire.
Cllr Miah’s concern about One Housing Group comes after the landlord did not keep up to date on fire safety procedures in its early days. A small fire in Kelson House was put out by the fire brigade – whose officers then advised OHG their procedures were not up to scratch. OHG quickly undertook remedial works.
However, during a programme of major works, OHG replaced door seals which would not let smoke through (into or out of flats) with rubber seals which would only keep smoke out when they became heated – which would be too late to stop escape routes becoming filled with smoke. Residents tried to explain this to their landlord, which did not take protests seriously.
Cllr Miah has raised similar questions with Genesis Housing Association, which manages a block in Cassilis Road on the Barkantine Estate on the Isle of Dogs. He is also pursuing questions about privately owned and managed tower blocks on the Island – some of which contain social tenants or private tenants of absentee leaseholders.
Residents of the Isle of Dogs came to two public meetings held on the Isle of Dogs before the General Election to discuss concerns with Executive Mayor John Biggs. Several concerns were raised over building standards in the newer high-rise blocks. It is these which Cllr Miah is pursuing. The major concern is to ensure that building materials are safe.
However, a secondary – but still important – concern is the proximity of the tower blocks to each other. Are there weather conditions in which a raging fire in one block could spread to a neighbouring block? Is there enough space for fire appliances to have adequate access to cope with a serious emergency? These questions need an answer.
After the Grenfell Tower fire, Tower Hamlets Homes sent all residents a letter to reassure them it had everything under control and asking them to take responsibility for their own fire safety – which was not the reassuring letter which could have gone out, really. Similarly, Executive Mayor John Biggs has announced that he is continuing to work with local landlords to ensure fire safety is prioritised and no unsafe materials have been used to clad tower blocks.
Cllr Miah is pursuing his list of specific points, combined with local knowledge put forward by residents – and has vowed to report back all responses to residents without delay.