A COUNTDOWN to the removal of dangerous cladding at one Basingstoke block of flats can now begin as a date has been set.

As previously reported in last week’s Gazette, high-pressure laminate, which is up to 115 times more combustible than alternatives, wraps the penthouses of the Cherry, Holly and Elm blocks on Winterthur Way.

A study published in 2019 warned a HPL-clad tower could be responsible for the next Grenfell Tower-style disaster.

The affected area is the top two floors of the Cherry, Holly and Elm blocks, where HPL was found in a survey carried out last year.

Now, Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council have confirmed that work to remove the cladding will start in May 2021 while work is already underway to install a new fire alarm system.

The alarm will see the removal of a 24-hour waking watch.

The cost, expected to be around £56,000, will be met by a government fund, but residents are still expected to face a bill for costly fire patrols needed in the interim.

A spokesperson for the council added that work to remove cladding is estimated to start in May 2021, and take nine to twelve months to complete.

Cabinet member for homes and families, Cllr Tristan Robinson, said: “As the statutory housing authority, we want to be assured that fire safety for residents living in high-rise blocks has been properly assessed by the people responsible for them and that the appropriate action is being taken to mitigate any risks. This has involved working closely with Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service.

“An officer team bringing together housing standards, building control, housing and legal has focused on ensuring that accurate information is available to the council to determine whether any relevant enforcement action is required.

"I know that this is a very worrying situation for residents. I would like to reassure them that the technical experts in the team have confirmed that where EWS reports have identified issues at Crown Heights and the penthouses at Winterthur Way, appropriate measures have been put in place to address them.

"The group will continue to monitor the situation and progress on the work planned to address the problems identified.

“Our housing service can give individual advice to any of the residents concerned about housing needs and homelessness as a result of the situation and we would encourage them to contact us.”