12. Situation in May 2020 with regards to flammable exterior walls on Barking Riverside

As of March 2020, the wooden balconies are in the process of being replaced. Planning permission was approved at the end of 2019 after consultation with residents,  which was partially but not entirely successful, a different colour being imposed.

In February 2020, BRL director Matt Carpen had written to the owners of the approximately 233 houses and bungalows with wooden exteriors, stating that work to remove the wood would be discussed with residents in April and alterations would begin later that year. The covid epidemic appears at the time of writing to have cut across that.

In an email to Matt Carpen dated 2 March 2020, we summarised the situation as it stood in respect of the rest of the estate:-

ACM cladding and decking materials

“John Millar and Leslie Hitchcock have partial decorative flammable ACM cladding, which is 4mm thick, standard Reynobond cladding panels which have a fire rating of B-s2, d0.”

Reynobond cladding is the same brand name of cladding used on the Grenfell Tower but may be of a different composition.

We have learned that Bellway are currently in discussions with the landlord to replace the existing cladding with an alternative non-combustible product. They anticipated that these works would commence in February/March 2020, although no notice has yet been received when work will start.

“Six blocks in the Caspian Quarter have partial non-flammable cladding (Vitrabond fire rated A2 S1 D0 ), which of course poses no concern. However the decking used in the balconies is a problem.”

“Ungraded “Ecodek” decking

“All eight blocks mentioned have a balcony decking that is an ungraded flammable material, ecodek (www.ecodek.co.uk), a composite of wood and resin.

“If a flat were to catch fire,  it seems evident that the balcony decking directly above could catch fire, spreading the fire into the flat above, and in that way spread the fire up the building from one flat to another. And perhaps this would set fire to the roof and spread the fire beyond. 

“It seems to me that this still contravened the building regulations which state that external walls should not aid the spread of fire.

“As you know, London and Quadrant are replacing the decking of a block on the Parklands side of the development, which we hope will set a precedent for the above mentioned decking. It appears that Robert Lewis House and Argent House also have this flammable decking.

“Bluebird house

“Finally, Bluebird House has exterior timber and timber balconies. This poses a danger of fire spread from one flat to another. It seems to me this timber must be removed.

“While there is much less opportunity for fire spread here compared to Samuel Garside House, and while London and Quadrant appear to have painted some treatment onto part of the wood around the several entrances of the block, residents note that this is insufficient. Resistance to fire is not the same as preventing it. The conditions to overcoming the resistance can occur with destructive consequences as we all know.”

Additionally, we have noted that George Wheeler, Robert Lewis House and Argent House appear to have the same decking as the Caspian quarter.