THE EXTENT of Basingstoke’s cladding crisis has for the first time been laid bare as The Gazette makes public the results of fire safety surveys that developers are accused of trying to keep hidden.

Residential high-rises across the town have been interrogated in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower tragedy in 2017 that left 72 people dead, and found serious concerns with the material used in some.

The Gazette revealed last week how seven apartment blocks taller than six storeys failed cladding safety checks, with all results outlined below:

Crown Heights

As revealed by The Gazette last month, Crown Heights failed its EWS1 certificate after it was found to be covered in the flammable material expanded polystyrene (EPS) and had no fire breaks.

More than 80 per cent of the building is clad in an STO-insulated render, which is a coating traditionally made of a mix of lime, water and aggregate. It is insulated by EPS.

Victory Hill

As reported in last week’s Gazette, penthouses at three blocks of the Victory Hill development on Winterthur Way have been wrapped in high-pressure laminate (HPL). It is a type of cladding that burns 115 times hotter than other non-flammable alternatives.

The main bulk of the building is brick, and so unaffected by the issue, but the top two floors of the Cherry, Holly and Elm blocks are clad in Trespa Meteon panels of Class D combustibility, which relate to fires involving metals.

Planning documents for a student accommodation block that caught fire in Bolton in 2019 indicate that this material was used, according to Inside Housing.

The publication reports that the fire apparently spread via the external wall.

Basingstoke’s cladding crisis has been laid bare.

Basingstoke’s cladding crisis has been laid bare.

Skyline Plaza

Skyline Plaza has passed the external walls system report and obtained an EWS1 form, meaning that flat owners are able to obtain a mortgage and the fire service deems it safe.

But the survey report highlights the presence of materials on the 75-metre tall block also found at Crown Heights and Victory Hill.

An insulated render system has been applied to all floors from ground to 16, which is presumed to be an STO system, like that on Crown Heights. It is similarly insulated with EPS.

And the top two floors are covered in a glass facade made out of an aluminium composite material.

Surveyors also found a very small amount of HPL, mainly on the ground floor. HPL was also found in the top floors of Victory Hill.

The Gazette asked Berkeley, the freeholder of the building, for more information about these materials. It refused to provide any further information, instead saying: “We are pleased that an EWS1 form requiring no works has been issued for the building.”

Churchill Plaza

The 60-metre tall converted office block has, like Skyline, passed the external walls system report, and the fire service deems it safe.

An aluminium composite material is used across 61-80 per cent of the building, but it has passed the Euroclass standards - the EU’s common standard for assessing the fire safety of building materials - at A2, and is considered non-combustible.

Pemberley Place

Pemberley Place, of Priestley Road near the hospital, has achieved an A1 rating on its EWS1 report, meaning its external walls has a low fire risk.

It is managed by Vivid, who say they are currently completing “door and complementation works”as part of its “health check” on all buildings over five storeys.

The housing association’s director of property and strategic services, Julian Chun, said: “We’re currently completing door and compartmentation works at Pemberley Place, as well as checking individual flat doors, following an in-depth ‘health check’ which has been completed for all of our blocks over 5 storeys.

“We have completed an EWS1 form on Pemberley Place and it has achieved an A1 rating, which means the external wall materials have a low fire risk.”

Oakridge Towers

The tower block, off Vivid Road, has a brick and render facade and therefore there is no need for it to obtain an EWS1 form.

The block underwent fire safety remediation works in 2017-18, according to Mr Chun, which involved the replacement of all communal fire doors and upgrading flat doors.

“We’re in a partnership arrangement with Hampshire Fire & Rescue for all of our properties which ensures we’re receiving robust, reliable and consistent advice across all our sites,” he said.

“We’ll continue to keep our customers informed on updates or changes being made to our buildings, which we’re prioritising in line with government advice and we’re also continuing to lobby the government for more support and funding to carry out essential fire safety works.”

Council to debate crisis

It comes as Basingstoke council is preparing to debate a motion this evening labelling the town’s cladding crisis as ‘unacceptable’.

A motion set to go before full council on Thursday evening will call on the freeholders of buildings to ensure that they are made safe, and that costs are not passed on to residents.

It has been proposed by the head of Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council’s housing committee, Cllr Stuart Frost, who said the situation was “not good enough”.

He told The Gazette: “It is not acceptable. It has been four years since Grenfell and a couple since the Cube in Bolton.

“We have eight buildings on the tall building register here in the borough and simply nothing has been done.

“What I am calling for is for action to be brought forward. I want action plans to be publicly shared with time frames and I fervently believe that the cost of this cladding and the fire break being shown not to be inserted to buildings such as Crown Heights, that cost should not be passed onto the residents.”

The Conservative councillor added: “It should be borne by the freeholders of the buildings.”

Cllr Frost added that the bill for waking watches, 24-hour fire patrols currently in force at Crown Heights and parts of the Victory Hill developmentto mitigate the fire risk, should not fall on residents either.

“Crown Heights didn’t use council building control. They used a third party independent buildings inspector and that is why we knew nothing about it.”

The motion, which will be debated by full council tonight, aims to recognise concerns raised by residents at Crown Heights, the safety implications on their homes and the high costs of waking watches.

Should it be supported, the council will work with the fire service to identify all tall residential buildings in the borough and apply pressure to ensure fire safety surveys are carried out, whilst also publishing a timeline for remedial work and making it clear to the building owners that the “current situation is unacceptable”.

It adds that residents should not meet the costs and asks Cllr Tristan Robinson to speak with the borough’s MPs, in turn asking them to lobby the government.

The motion has been seconded by the chair of the authority’s Development Control committee, Cllr Paul Miller, who said that building control regulations was the “essence” of the problem.

“There needs to be full transparency by the third party to local residents. They have the powers to oversee that, all we are asking for is transparency.”

He said councillors and officers were “frustrated” to be kept in the dark.