Fire at student block raises further cladding safety fears

Concerns about the safety of high-pressure laminate cladding have intensified after fire ravaged a six-storey block of student accommodation in Bolton town centre.

HPL cladding is believed to be used on thousands of homes and it has already been the subject of intensive lobbying by tenants, landlords, homeowners and fire safety experts, who want it removed from all residential buildings.

So far the Government has focussed its efforts on getting aluminium composite material cladding (the type used on Grenfell Tower) removed and it has resisted calls to extend its financial assistance to removing other forms of cladding. Instead it has urged property owners to ensure their properties are safe.

Although all of the residents of The Cube building in Bolton managed to escape the fire, the way the fire spread quickly up and around the exterior of the building was very reminiscent of the Grenfell Tower fire.

Dozens of students were evacuated in the Bolton fire with just two people requiring treatment from paramedics at the scene. Some 40 fire engines and appliances and around 200 firefighters from across Greater Manchester attended at the height of the blaze.

Earlier this year experts, led by Roy Wilsher, chair of the National Fire Chiefs Council, said that following fire tests it had become clear that many HPL panels were “very unlikely to adequately resist the spread of fire”.

“Building owners with these systems should immediately take action,” the fire safety panel said. “Action to remediate unsafe HPL should be carried out as soon as possible.”

By Patrick Mooney, Editor