Published 16 October 2017

West Dunbartonshire Council is set to remove external window panels on 11 high-rise blocks in Clydebank following an independent review of its multi-storey properties.

The Council commissioned an external expert to conduct comprehensive fire safety assessments of the 22 flats in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire in June this year.

The consultant has recommended that the panels below each window in 11 of the blocks should be replaced.

The checks raised questions over the composition of the material used within the panels and, although the panels meet current building safety regulations, to remove any uncertainty, the Council is removing the panels from five blocks in Dalmuir, five blocks in North Drumry and one block at Kilbowie.

Work is underway to identify alternative panels and the removal and replacement programme will begin as soon as possible.

The independent assessor has stressed that the window panels “are not in any way similar to those installed in Grenfell” and has recommended the material is removed to ensure the buildings meet enhanced fire safety standards.

Following the tragedy in London, the focus has been on the cladding applied to tower blocks, and the Council confirmed in June that none of the high-rise properties in West Dunbartonshire were clad with the external material used at Grenfell.

The enhanced checks, which go beyond what is expected of landlords in Scotland, were commissioned by the Council to scrutinise all aspects of fire safety within the buildings and offer further reassurance to residents.

Housing Officers have today hand delivered letters to residents of all 11 affected blocks. In addition, Council officers are in regular communications with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS), focused on all aspects of safety within high rise blocks, and this will continue throughout these works. SFRS are also putting measures in place to further reassure tenants and will visit any tenants at their homes and carry out free home safety visits.

The reports’ findings have also been shared with the Scottish Government and West Dunbartonshire Council is recommending that all Councils and Housing Associations with similar properties across Scotland consider independent assessment of the properties.

Peter Barry, West Dunbartonshire Council’s Strategic Lead for Housing & Employability, said: “Our priority is the safety of our tenants and that is why we took the additional step of commissioning enhanced fire safety assessments. By carrying out these checks that are above and beyond what is expected, we have been able to identify an area for improvement in the form of the window panels.  I want to be clear that the expert is explicit in saying these panels are not the same as the external wall coverings that were fitted at Grenfell. However, we will replace them as quickly as possible to fully reassure the people living in these homes.”

West Dunbartonshire Council leader Jonathan McColl said: “In the wake of Grenfell, everyone ─ the media, politicians, the public ─ has been focused on cladding and we remain assured that our cladding is not the same as Grenfell. While I am reassured that we have no concerns about our cladding, we want to provide the best possible reassurance to our tenants. Having instructed an expert to carry out extended inspections on these buildings, we are taking further action based on their findings.

“Council, Fire Service and external experts have been working on this from day one following the tragedy and deserve our thanks for their amazing efforts. Local tenant and resident groups have gone to great lengths to work in partnership with us for everyone’s benefit and this community effort is keeping people safe.”

The Council’s Convener of Housing & Communities, Diane Docherty, added: “We have taken our findings to the Scottish Government and we are working on an improved best process for our own flats. We have found great value in having these extra tests done, over and above the standard tests being carried out across the UK, and we hope others can learn from what has been highlighted by these independent inspections in West Dunbartonshire.

“While the panels in question, in the assessor’s own words, are not in any way similar to those installed at Grenfell, we agree with the Council officers’ decision to replace them to minimise any possible risk. We are taking no chances and are putting our tenants’ safety first.”