Scotland

London fire: Reviews ordered on Scottish tower block safety

Grenfell block fire Image copyright Jason Hawkes
Image caption The London Fire Brigade has said it does not expect to find any more survivors in the block

A number of Scottish local authorities are taking extra steps to ensure the safety of high-rise buildings following the tower block fire in west London.

Fife Council said it was starting a review of specifications for future projects and existing cladding used on buildings.

Edinburgh is to review fire safety and evacuation procedures in all blocks.

Rescuers in London have said they do not expect to find any survivors in Grenfell Tower, north Kensington.

The block was engulfed in a massive fire in the early hours of Wednesday morning which spread rapidly to most of the building's 24 storeys.

Seventeen people have been confirmed dead, but police have warned this number will rise. People have been desperately seeking news of missing family and friends.

Thirty people remain in hospital - 15 of whom are in a critical condition.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the Scottish government would be ready to take any necessary action following an investigation into the fire.

'Catastrophic fire'

Speaking at First Minister's Questions, she said: "The investigation into this fire is clearly at a very early stage and while there appear to be very serious questions to be answered we must be careful not to speculate at this stage.

"That said, members will wish to know that the local government minister has this morning discussed the fire with local authority colleagues.

"A ministerial group will also be convened to review Scottish regulations and to ensure we are standing ready to take any actions necessary as lessons are learned form this catastrophic fire."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The fire spread quickly after breaking out on the fourth floor of the block

The cause of the fire is not yet known, but the BBC has learned that the cladding installed on Grenfell Tower was also used on other buildings that have been hit by fires around the world.

The exterior cladding, added in 2015, had a polyethylene - or plastic - core instead of an even more fireproof alternative, BBC Newsnight understands.

High-rise buildings in France, the UAE and Australia that had similar cladding have all been hit by fires that spread.

A spokesman for Fife Council said: "We are confident our fire safety procedures and over-cladding specifications are safe.

"To further reassure tenants and residents, we have agreed to start a review of our specification for future projects, and this will include a review of the existing over-cladding that has been used in Fife. We will issue information updates as this review is taken forward."

Tenant concerns

Aberdeen City Council has reassured its tenants and residents that it constantly ensured its buildings "met required standards and regulations".

"However, in the wake of the fire in London, we are working closely with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service about additional advice which can be given to tenants and residents.

"While investigations are ongoing in London, there have been concerns in the media from tenants in London about over-cladding, and we would like to give the following assurances.

"All of our over-cladded buildings were designed to comply with Scottish Building Regulations, and have been subject to building warrant approval, detailed design and specifications showing compliance with regulations and an inspection regime."

Mary Taylor, chief executive of the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations, said she was "shocked and saddened" by the fire in London.

"None of us should rush to judgement or action until we know what led to the fire and, importantly, why people could not escape," she said.

"While we wait to hear findings as to the cause, or causes, of the fire, we are, in the meantime, working with members to assess the situation in Scotland.

"Our members will make any adjustments that are deemed necessary to maintain the safety of their properties."

'Robust approach'

Building standards in Scotland are a devolved issue and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service works with local authorities and housing associations to ensure the safety of occupants in high-rise buildings.

Since Wednesday's massive fire, many local authorities in Scotland have moved to reassure tenants and residents that their buildings are safe.

Glasgow Housing Association said it had a "robust approach" in place to minimise the risk of fire and to prevent it spreading.

Wheatley Group director of property and development Tom Barclay added: "The materials used in our multi-storey investment programme meet all building standards and regulations for this type of property.

"We also carry out regular patrols and inspections as part of our broader approach to health and safety."

Allan Henderson, from Highland Council, said: "We are confident of the fire safety of our housing stock in relation to building standards and conditions, but will obviously consider the factors involved in the Grenfell Tower fire as details emerge on this and implement any fire safety recommendations for social landlords."

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