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Grenfell-style construction faults lead to evacuation at new £30M complex

Fox village complex

A litany of construction failings has been found at a recently constructed block of flats in Liverpool.

Liverpool City Council has handed out a prohibition order on one of the five blocks at the part-finished Fox Street Village development, which demands an evacuation of the entire block if safety concerns are not addressed in the coming weeks.

Under the terms of the order, residents must be rehoused by 13 May unless the failings are resolved before.

The first four blocks on the £30M complex were only finished last month, but “serious construction issues” that “will contribute to the spread of fire” have now been discovered.

Failings include “poorly fitted” rain screen cladding panels, faults with fire doors and “clear evidence that compartmentation within the risers has been compromised”.

A report by Liverpool City Council also reveals that no cavity barriers have been installed to prevent fire spread and combustible wooden battens have been used to fix cladding panels to the building’s exterior.

Several expert reports into the Grenfell tower tragedy, which claimed the lives of 72 people in 2017, concluded that faults with fire doors and cladding panels resulted in the building’s compartmentation system failing.

Compartmentation is a commonly-used fire safety procedure designed to contain the fire to the point of origin – in this case, each individual flat.

Responding to the report, managing director at fire engineering specialist Mosen Fathi Tarada told New Civil Engineer that developers “should have known better” considering the magnitude of the Grenfell disaster.

“There are many similarities between this block and Grenfell,” Tarada said. “Of course this block is only six storeys tall, so the impact would not be quite the same, but nonetheless it does not look good.”

He added: “The issues with the rain screen cladding and the lack of cavity barriers to stop the fire spreading are immediate similarities to Grenfell.

“Likewise the use of combustible materials between the exterior and inside of the building. In this case there is ‘untreated and unfinished softwood battens’, whereas in Grenfell there was the combustible plastic used on the windows.

“While the material is different here it acts in a similar way, creating a fire bridge between the outside and inside of the building.”

Tarada also said “gaps found in the cladding system” could create a “chimney-like effect” leading to fire spreading in a similar way to what happened at Grenfell.

The council has also issued an enforcement notice which gives development companies LinMari and Fox Street Village two years to rectify the safety failings. If not carried out, the development could be demolished.

Further inspections are now underway at the remaining blocks on the site which consists of 400 apartments and cost around £30M to build.

A spokesperson for Fox Street Village told the Liverpool Echo that it was “working with the council” to rectify the problems.

“There have been a number of external factors - all out of our control - which has meant that progress is not as far as we would have hoped,” the spokesperson said.

“However, we are working closely with Liverpool City Council to resolve the issues they have raised so we can deliver a scheme that is not only fit-for-purpose, but is a residential development that the city can be proud of.”

New Civil Engineer has been unable to contact LinMari or Fox Street Village, however HM Courts & Tribunal Service records list both companies as filing petitions to the Companies Court Winding Up List.

Fox Street Village submitted its winding up petition to the courts in January, while LinMari went before the Insolvencies and Companies Court last Wednesday.

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