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Irvine block fire sparks overcladding investigation

NEWS

FIRE SAFETY in overclad tower blocks is to be investigated by a House of Commons sub-committee following a local authority tower block fire in Irvine, Ayrshire, earlier this month.

One man died when fire broke out in the 13-storey Garnock Court block on 11 June. The blaze is said to have spread through several floors via the outside of the building. Suspicion has focused on the performance of the GRP overcladding fitted eight years ago and its uPVC window frames.

Last week the Environment sub committee to the Commons Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee announced it was launching a short enquiry into the potential risk of fire spread via external cladding systems.

Local MP Brian Donohoe is a member of the sub committee, which has asked witnesses for evidence by Tuesday.

The move will bring no joy to the building's owner, North Ayrshire Council. Although the official investigation into the tragedy is still not complete, it announced last week that the remaining overcladding would be removed from Garnock Court and its five sister blocks.

The council stated that this was to 'allay any fears the public may have', following 'alarmist reports' in the local press which may have led people to believe the overcladding was potentially dangerous. Despite the costs involved and 'all the safety assurances obtained', the council said it was undertaking the work solely to 'restore tenants' peace of mind'.

Wood and aluminium window frames will replace the suspect uPVC frames, and a rendered finish applied to walls.

Organisations ranging from the Institute of Building Control to the Bath Cladding Centre have been invited to submit evidence to the sub committee, which has scheduled an oral evidence session for 20 July.

One body which will be responding to the invitation is the Loss Prevention Council, whose report on the fire risks in curtain walled multi-storey buildings was formally launched last Friday (News last week).

Although the problems of overclad and curtain walled buildings are very different, the clerk to the sub committee said there might be a common factor in that neither are covered by current building regulations.

(See Analysis page 10)

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