Tyne & Wear

Five Sunderland high-rises stripped of cladding to 'reassure residents'

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Image caption So far 60 buildings in 25 council areas have failed combustibility tests

Cladding on five high-rise buildings in Sunderland has been removed.

The housing association, Gentoo, said the material had been removed as a precautionary measure in the wake of the Grenfell Tower blaze in which 79 people are believed to have perished.

So far 60 buildings in 25 council areas have failed combustibility tests.

Those which had cladding removed in Sunderland were Zetland, Church North, Dock, Dame Dorothy and the Victor block of flats.

Gentoo said none of its buildings had the same cladding as Grenfell Tower, but it went ahead with the cladding removal to reassure residents.

Image caption The firm said the work was a precautionary measure

A statement from company said: "We took the precautionary measure to remove a small amount of decorative panelling from five of our blocks in the St Peter's area.

"We are also carrying out face to face reassurance meetings with our residents as part of this exercise to ensure the ongoing safety of our customers."

One elderly man, who lives on the 13th floor of the Victor building and did not wish to be named, said he was not nervous as the housing association carried out fire safety checks "all the time".

He said: "Gentoo is always doing things to keep the residents happy."

Image caption Gentoo said it had stripped the cladding off to reassure its customers

Meanwhile a petition has been set up calling on the owners of another student block to tell residents if their building is affected.

Brookfield Student Real Estate owns St James Point which houses 80 Newcastle University students and more than 200 students from elsewhere.

A company spokesman said the building had been designed to the highest fire safety standards.

Steph Mosley of Acorn, a community group campaigning for renters' rights, said: "We don't know what is in the cladding.

"We've been told that it follows regulations.

"But people at Grenfell were told that regulations had been followed.

"We are after specifics - is the cladding the same? What is it made of? Is it flammable? The residents really need to know."

Gentoo said it was not planning to remove any further cladding from its properties.

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