Wales politics

Grenfell: Five Welsh social landlords test cladding

View of Grenfell Tower from nearby Latimer Road Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption At least 80 people are feared to have been killed in the Grenfell Tower fire in west London

Five Welsh social landlords are testing cladding on tower blocks following the Grenfell Tower fire.

Three housing associations and Isle of Anglesey council have told BBC Wales they are conducting fire safety tests.

It comes after Welsh Government said on Tuesday that Swansea Council was testing cladding in seven blocks.

Communities secretary Carl Sargeant told AMs on Wednesday that he did not have the power to compel social landlords to conduct tests.

A total of 16 blocks are being tested - nine of which are located in Swansea.

Welsh Government has told councils and other social landlords to test cladding if they believe they have aluminium composite material (ACM).

But the housing associations and Isle of Anglesey council said they are testing samples of cladding despite not having the material.

In England, 120 high-rise buildings have failed tests.

Welsh Government says there are 35 tower blocks of seven or more storeys in Wales. No results have yet been published from tests here.

Image copyright Getty Images

All the social landlords are speaking to Building Research Establishment (BRE), the organisation that is conducting fire safety testing in England.

Isle of Anglesey council said it is arranging to test cladding on four residential tower blocks - Plas Tudur, Llangefni and Glan Cefni, Llangefni; Queens Park Court, Holyhead, and Maes y Coed, Menai Bridge. All, apart from Plas Tudur which is seven storeys high, are six storeys in size.

Bron Afon Community Housing said it will arrange testing of samples from the Tower and Monmouth House in Cwmbran, and Fairview Court in Pontypool as a reassurance to residents.

A spokesman for Pobl Group said it was submitting a cladding sample from Vivian House in Swansea, which has eight stories with 32 apartments, to confirm its non-combustibility.

However, he said a panel sample was tested on site by the organisation's own fire safety surveyor on 26 June and was found then not to be combustible.

Meanwhile a spokeswoman for Coastal Housing Group said the material from the Strand Court property in Swansea that is being tested is not ACM cladding.

"However, as the safety of our tenants is our upmost priority, we have decided to take the extra precaution of having this material sent for further fire safety tests and are currently awaiting the results," she added.

It is not clear which of Swansea Council's tower blocks are being tested.

'Entity of themselves'

Mr Sargeant told AMs on Wednesday it was his understanding "that I don't have the powers to compel authorities or RSLs to make tests because they're an entity of themselves".

"But what I have done is had contact with all of these. I don't believe it is in any of the interests of the RSLs or local authorities not to test where they see or present risk," he said.

He said the ACM product used at Grenfell Tower in Kensington, west London, was not in place in any buildings in Wales.

Welsh Government previously said that the specific brand of panel, Reynobond PE, is not in use in Wales.

"But there are ACM panels, which I have also instructed authorities to have tested on the basis of fire integrity," Mr Sargeant added.

He spoke after Plaid Cymru AM Bethan Jenkins said statements from the Welsh Government on the issue so far had been "less clear than they should have been in recent days".

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