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More than £2m to be spent to make Norwich tower blocks safer following Grenfell tragedy

PUBLISHED: 06:30 10 January 2018 | UPDATED: 08:37 18 January 2018

The towers in Heartsease. Pic: Colin Finch.

The towers in Heartsease. Pic: Colin Finch.

Archant © 2007

More than £2m is to be spent to improve the safety of hundreds of people living in Norwich’s tower blocks, in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire.

Gail Harris, deputy leader of Norwich City Council. ANTONY KELLYGail Harris, deputy leader of Norwich City Council. ANTONY KELLY

Following the tragedy at the 24-storey flats in London, in which more than 70 people died, a survey of Norwich’s eight tower blocks was commissioned.

That survey, carried out by NPS Group with the support of Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service, has come up with a string of recommendations to improve safety in the towers, where there are more than 450 flats.

None of the blocks have cladding, which os believed to have contributed to the Grenfell blaze, and overall it was found the tower blocks were well maintained with “no serious concerns”.

But, for extra safety, council bosses intend to speed up improvement work which had been planned, or has already been partially completed.

That will include replacing 718 front doors and store doors at a cost of nearly £670,000, with work due to start later this month. The council says that will address almost half the issues identified.

Letters were due to arrive on the doorsteps of council tenants and leaseholders in Normandie Tower in Rouen Road, Winchester Tower near Grapes Hill, Ashbourne, Burleigh and Compass in Heartsease and Aylmer, Seaman and Markham in Mile Cross today.

The council says the money will come from a budget specifically for the council’s tower blocks. They said some of the work had been under way already, but had been paused following the Grenfell tragedy.

Gail Harris, the council’s deputy leader, said: “After Grenfell, we felt, as responsible landlords, that we need to check all of our tower blocks.

“The results are in the report and we’re trying to be very open about the findings and keep residents informed.

“We are pleased that the fire service say they have no serious concerns, but have decided to make a significant investment and accelerate some of the work which we had been doing or planning.

“The doors are the most important replacement because they deal with a number of issues.”

She thanked people living in the towers for their patience while the report was drawn up and for the caretakers in the towers for their help.

What work will need to be done?

Work will start this month to replace 718 front doors and store doors in every tower block at a cost of £668,000. The new front doors will have fire proof letterboxes.

£1m is to be spent replacing wooden framed panels in

bathrooms with metal framed fixed panels and putting special sealant around ventilation ducts and waste pipes. That will be done over the next 12 months.

Other work will see improvements to dividing doors in flats, battery-powered smoke alarms replaced with hardwired ones and the removal of polystyrene ceiling tiles.

The goal is that the changes will improve what is known as “fire compartmentalisation”, whereby a fire in an individual flat can be contained for at least 30 minutes.

People will not have to move out of their flats while the work is carried out.

There will also be an education and information programme around fire safety.

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