Basildon estate's cladding gives 'no fire protection'

Fire-damaged homes in Basildon
Image caption Three houses were badly damaged during a blaze in April 2012

A building inspector has criticised safety failings on an Essex housing estate hit by 10 fires in 10 years.

Arnold Tarling, a fire safety expert, told BBC Inside Out East that cladding being installed by a council provided "no known fire protection".

The most recent fire to hit the Felmore estate in Basildon saw two women rescued from a flat in July.

Basildon Council said the cladding had a "75-minute fire resistance" and was part of a series of safety measures.

A spokesman said the cladding met its building control requirements and included a "membrane with a 75 minute fire resistance".

The council is also upgrading electrical systems, installing sprinkler systems and carrying out regular checks as part of a "holistic approach", the spokesman added.

The authority will begin the roll out of replacement timber cladding for its properties in October.

'Rain screen'

After a fire in April 2012, which left eight families temporarily homeless, some residents blamed the properties' timber-construction and started a petition calling for safety improvements.

But now concerns are being raised that replacement timber cladding will not improve safety.

Mr Tarling told the programme that the cladding "provides no known fire protection".

He added it was "no more than a rain screen" and would "act as a chimney encouraging the fire to spread upwards".

"It would have been far better to have removed the cladding and asbestos cement panels, fixed an external quality fire rated board, insulated with a mineral wool and then rendered on mesh," he said.

One fire in 2009 on the 1970s estate - a mix council and private housing - destroyed eight properties and saw 90 people evacuated from their homes.

Most of the flats and houses are timber framed - which means inside construction and external cladding are all made from wood.

For more on this story, see BBC Inside Out East on Monday 23 September at 19:30 BST

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