Manchester City Council

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Council commissions full review of Whitebeck Court rainscreen cladding

Manchester City Council has commissioned a fire safety expert to review the cladding system on Whitebeck Court in north Manchester.

Savills will undertake a detailed survey of the building that will begin in the next two weeks, which will review the full rainscreen cladding system and produce a report highlighting any work they suggest needs to take place to ensure the building is as safe as possible. 

The survey has been commissioned after a regular fire risk inspection found that a small number of panels on the building - 24 out of 352 - were found to be different to the panel details provided to the City Council’s building control team when refurbishment work to the building was completed around eight years ago. The panels are not the ACM-type (Aluminium Composite Material) that were installed on the Grenfell tower.

Since discovering the issue, the City Council and its housing management organisation, Northwards Housing, have been working closely with Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service, an independent fire engineer, and the original contractor to resolve the issue as quickly as possible. 

The upcoming survey will act to reassure the City Council and residents that any further issues are identified and resolved at the same time.

A detailed plan for any necessary works will be put together when the survey is complete. 

Throughout this process, Northwards Housing’s independent fire expert, who has been working closely with Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue, has remained satisfied that the building is safe. This is because Whitebeck Court is already fitted with a full fire alarm system, and sprinklers are fitted in all residential areas. 

Car parking around the exterior of the building has also been reviewed and barriers erected to ensure that no cars can be parked adjacent to the building. Refuse storage has also been reviewed and changes made to remove any potential risk.

Northwards have already reviewed the other high-rise properties it manages with cladding and has confirmed they are clad in a different material to Whitebeck Court. 

Cllr Suzanne Richards, Manchester City Council’s executive member for housing and regeneration, said: “The safety of our residents is paramount to us and we take every measure to ensure people feel safe in their homes. Fire safety checks are carried out regularly to satisfy ourselves that standards are the best they can be.

“It’s important that we can reassure our residents - and ourselves - that City Council-owned properties are as safe, and so we are taking a proactive approach to regularly reviewing the rainscreen cladding on our buildings.  

“By doing this survey now we can make sure that we can do anything that we need to in making Whitebeck Court as safe as possible. 

“We have written to the residents of Whitebeck Court throughout the process to keep them updated and to reassure them that as we investigate the rainscreen panels on the building, they remain safe.”

Robin Lawler, chief executive of Northwards Housing, said: “The fact that a small number of incorrect panels were discovered during a regular fire risk inspection shows that these checks are working. We reacted quickly and have communicated with residents regularly to keep them updated and reassure them that they are safe in their homes. Our residents are our priority and there is certainly no need for them to be concerned.
“Northwards Housing has worked closely with Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service to assess the risk, which continues to be deemed low, as the property is already fitted with a full fire alarm and sprinkler system. We will continue to liaise with our Independent Fire Engineer and GMFRS to ensure the continuing safety of our residents.”

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