Bromley residents' fears due to unsafe cladding in Northpoint building
PUBLISHED: 14:53 05 July 2018
A cocktail of unsafe cladding, inadequate fire alarms and inefficient safety measures have left residents of the nine-story Northpoint bulding in Sherman Road fearing for their lives.
Occupants became concerned after it was discovered that the cladding in the building is highly flammable, and that on top of this fire alarms and other safety measures have been defective for years.
Their worries have so far been answered only by means of a “waking watch” patrolling system.
One such resident, who has lived in the block of flats for three years but wished to remain anonymous, said: “Zero progress has been made in addressing these issues since they were first substantially raised in November 2017.
“There is a waking watch that costs us - a small group of residents - £3,000 a week between us and the reserve fund has been run dry.
“We cannot imagine what the rectification works may cost, all we know is we sincerely doubt we can afford the necessary measures to make our homes safe.”
The waking watch consists of two people patrolling corridors 24/7 with walkie-talkies to alert fellow residents if a fire breaks out.
JFM Block and Estate took over management for the building in September 2016.
A company spokesman said: “We inherited an alarm system which had been recycled from the office building which Northpoint previously had been.
“It had a number of inconsistent errors in the system which our predecessors had struggled to resolve.
“JFM spent 12 months testing the system and trying to eradicate the issues.”
JFM said that they attempted to solve problems through a specialist electrical contractor, who confirmed that the system could not be trusted to serve its purpose, particularly on three floors - the basement, ground and first.
“It was during this period that the Grenfell disaster occurred,” continued JFM.
“High-rise buildings around the country that had cladding present started to be tested for the cladding’s flammability.”
It was after these tests that it was confirmed Northpoint was covered in a type of cladding which was deemed unsafe.
JFM says that due to the combination of the cladding and the alarm system faults, an enforcement order was served on the building by the London Fire Brigade, requiring an alternate means of alerting residents should a fire break out in the building on floors on which the system could not be relied upon.
According to JFM, the alternate means were dictated to them as a requirement – and so began the tower’s “waking watch” system.
The spokesman added that, since then, the company has been working with an independent fire safety consultant, a firm of surveyors and the directors of Northpoint Bromley to find a solution that will resolve the safety issues to everyone’s satisfaction.
He went on: “Currently, by following all of the advice provided to us by the various expert companies, the solution would appear to be the removal of strips of cladding from the building to break the stretches of flammable material, remove the alarm system in its entirety, and make various fire safety improvements internally, all with a view to turning the building from one which employs a ‘simultaneous evacuation’ policy to one which employs a ‘stay-put’ policy.”
He said that final details of how this will be achieved are still being discussed, and that JFM continues to work for the owners of the property to reach a solution that will make the building safe.
A Bromley Council spokesman revealed that although the council had no responsibility in this case, it had been working to solve Northpoint’s safety issues:
He added: “Residents will be aware that the council does not own its own housing stock but we have been liaising with the government and working with owners of tall buildings to make sure that they are aware of the latest advice and what they need to do in relation to fire safety.
“Specifically, we have been in contact with the managing agents who are working on behalf of the owners and we are aware that, following their recent fire survey and risk assessments, they are taking forward a fire strategy which contains a series of fire safety measures.”