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London borough with highest number of flammable cladding tower blocks to buy £1m fire ladder

·3-min read
 (Yui Mok/PA)
(Yui Mok/PA)

The London borough with the highest number of tall buildings still covered in Grenfell-style flammable cladding is set to spend £1million on a fire ladder tall enough to reach the upper floors of a skyscraper.

Tower Hamlets council will discuss funding a 200ft (60m) hydraulic rescue platform with London Fire Brigade after learning there are no tall ladders in the borough.

The area has some 900 tower blocks and almost 300 private buildings registered with the government safety fund to remove cladding - more than anywhere else in the UK.

However, firefighters currently only have access to 90ft platforms that can reach the top floors of a six-storey building. Tower Hamlets will use levies from developers to buy the new safety equipment.

The move follows a blaze at the 19-storey New Providence Wharf, where residents had been waiting for the removal of flammable cladding for two years.

The fire, on May 7, started in the fuse board in an eighth-floor flat and then spread out of an open balcony window up to floor 11, according to a LFB report.

The proposal to purchase the equipment was put forward by opposition Lib Dem and Conservative councillors at a full council meeting last week. It was passed unanimously by the Labour-run administration.

Conservative Peter Golds wrote a letter suggesting the purchase of a ladder to the Tower Hamlets’ mayor, which kicked off the cross-party campaign.

He said: “Let us get beyond any discussion of politics on this. We are talking here primarily about people’s lives and one thing I am going to say is about the future of residential high rises. They are getting higher and higher and higher.

“We have to look at this carefully and we will have to eventually consider how safe it is to pack people into high rises and the consequences of it.”

Lib Dem Rabina Khan added: “The reason we are having this motion is because of the Grenfell tragedy. Four years on we are still talking about fire safety.

“Every single ward [in Tower Hamlets] has a high rise and it is about time we had a debate about purchasing a tall ladder.”

LFB has purchased three new 64m turntable ladders -the tallest ladders in the UK- following a £2million donation from London Freemasons.

They are due to come in to service in the autumn and will be based at Old Kent Road, Dagenham and Wimbledon.

Labour’s Eve McQuillan said the borough would be meeting with firefighters to discuss purchasing equipment for Millwall fire station on the Isle of Dogs.

“It is an absolute travesty that this is a scandal which is still going on four years after Grenfell,” she added.

Mayor John Biggs said: “There is a great anxiety about people’s safety. We have more tower blocks here than any other part of the country.

“Events at Grenfell show we’ve been fast and loose with building regulations that have created potential fire traps.”

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