Frequently asked questions Click to get info
Why did you commission these Fire Engineer reports?
In advance of new Building Safety standards and legislation proposed by Government, Waltham Forest Council is taking every measure to ensure that tenants in high-rise buildings feel safe in their homes. The new standards and legislation proposed by Government, which means that high rise buildings will be held to new standards, will require Waltham Forest, and all other landlords in the country and across London, to assess their housing stock against this new standard.
We wanted to review the building structure and materials used in all our high-rise buildings (those over 18 metres), so commissioned the Fire Engineer (FE) reports. This is part of the Council’s commitment to ensure a decent roof over resident’s heads.
The Council is taking action now, undertaking rigorous testing of its high-rise buildings with examinations by experts to ensure that every necessary action is taken to keep tenants safe with a decent roof over their head. These independent examinations are in line with updated Government guidelines on ensuring modern building safety standards nationwide, which every landlord will be expected to meet.
What high rise buildings in Waltham Forest are affected?
- Avenue Road Estate (Rosewood Court - E11 4HT, Gean Court - E11 4HN, Mulberry (E11 4HW and E11 4JR) and Blackthorn - E15 2DL)
- St Davids Tower E17 3HS
- St Nicholas Court E4 9LX
- St Patricks Court IG8 9LF
- St Georges Court E17 3NL
- Burrell and Raynor Towers, E10 7EJ and E17 EH
- Northwood Tower E17 3HL
What does this remedial work mean for residents?
After reviewing the Fire Engineer reports and liaising with London Fire Brigade, the Council is developing detailed plans for remedial work to bring the buildings up to the most modern building safety standards, with work to begin in early 2021.
Following the recommendations made in the independent Fire Engineers report, the Council, after discussions with fire engineers, surveyors and London Fire Brigade, has proactively changed the fire strategy from Stay Put to Simultaneous Evacuation, and will introduce Waking Watch.
This is not a cause for worry. This is a precautionary and temporary measure to ensure peace of mind for residents while remedial works are carried out on the 14 high rise buildings identified. The Council is engaging with every one of the tenants to ensure they feel safe, understand the new changes and how it affects them.
Are these changes permanent?
Over time, these arrangements may change and where it is more effective, other measures such as fire detection alarms may be installed in place of Waking Watch. If arrangements change, we will let residents know before they change and tell residents what the change will mean for them.
How long will the works take?
We are working through a delivery programme for each affected site and when it is confirmed we will communicate this as soon as possible with stakeholders and tenants.
In total how much are you spending on this?
This project represents a major investment of around £40 million in building safety and improvements by the Council.
If there is no worry for residents, why are you introducing waking watches and changing the fire strategy?
The change of the fire strategy and the introduction of a watch were recommendations in the Fire Engineers reports. After discussions with expert fire engineers, surveyors and London Fire Brigade, the Council has decided to introduce the Waking Watch/simultaneous evacuation as a temporary measure to ensure peace of mind of residents as the necessary work is carried out.
What is a waking watch?
A waking watch is a system whereby suitably trained persons continually patrol all floors and the exterior perimeter of the building in order to detect a fire, raise the alarm, and carry out the role of evacuation management. If the Waking Watch identify or are notified of a fire incident they will attend immediately, assess the situation, and if required call the Fire Brigade. They will support residents to evacuate and liaise with the Fire Brigade when they arrive at the scene to provide relevant information.
Waking Watch reduces the time from the incident confirmation to evacuation to range of ten to fifteen minutes.
The team are always available to residents, can be contacted by phone with any safety issues or with questions.
How long will they be in place?
The Council will review the fire safety strategy and waking watch presence in each block regularly as the remedial work progresses. We will decide on reducing the waking watch number, or removing them altogether, or putting in place other measures, such as fire detection alarms, and returning blocks to Stay Put as the remedial work are carried out, and in liaison with the LFB and fire engineers. We will be sure to let residents and stakeholders know immediately when there are any changes.
But isn’t the provision of a waking watch a cause for alarm in itself?
In the wake of the Grenfell tragedy and the expectation that buildings meet new safety standards, there has been an understandable increase in concerns about building safety in high-rise buildings, which has seen a huge increase in recommendations for and implementation of waking watches.
What does Simultaneous Evacuation mean?
The fire strategy for a building agreed by the building owner for high rise blocks is generally Stay Put. The type of construction means that residents are safer by remaining in their homes during a fire emergency. When a Building Strategy has been changed to Simultaneous Evacuation with a Waking Watch, in the unlikely event of a fire emergency, the Waking Watch would organise a measured, calm evacuation of residents from the building.
The Waking Watch team will be in the blocks and will be able to assist any vulnerable residents with evacuating. New fire information notices about simultaneous evacuation will be placed in communal areas on all floors.
Are there likely to be more blocks affected in Waltham Forest?
The council manages Fire Risk Assessments for all buildings with Communal Area. Where any risk is identified, this may lead to more detailed Fire Engineer reports.
Is the cladding the same material used at Grenfell Tower?
No, it is not ACM cladding. Where blocks have cladding, it is a different cladding which contains some insulating material that is combustible. As part of the remedial work these materials will be removed.
How will you keep residents informed?
We will be informing and keeping residents up to date with regular hand delivered and emailed bulletins for those directly impacted. We will look to hold regular resident meetings.
We will also provide residents with a named contact, usually your Housing Officer or Resident Liaison Officer, they can speak to via phone or email for updated information and who they can reach out to with their queries.
They will also be given contact details for the waking watch. Communication channels will continue all the way through the remedial work programme. We will also set up WhatsApp groups for residents in each block.
What about vulnerable residents?
Our housing management team is carrying out a survey of all residents in the blocks to identify any who would need additional support and help in the unlikely event of a fire emergency. That information will be shared to the Waking Watch and the London Fire Brigade.
When will the work be carried out?
We are currently working up the programmes for remedial works, some are quite complex. Tenants and leaseholders will be consulted once the programme of works is agreed.
Why can’t you start remedial work on all the blocks straight away?
The works are complex and must be designed in accordance with relevant legislation. This is a major programme of work and represents a challenge for the Council and our contractors. Logically it is not possible to carry out that work at the same time. We are putting in place a detailed plan to get the work carried out, as we as the recommended safety measures to ensure residents’ peace of mind.
Some of these blocks are on the Avenue Road Estate? Why are you spending money on improving blocks likely to be demolished?
We have Fire Engineer reports for two blocks on the estate, Rosewood Court and Gean Court, recommending remedial work to deal with building safety issues and Waking Watch and Simultaneous Evacuation. Also, we have three more ‘clone’ blocks on Avenue Road Estate: Mulberry (which is two blocks) and Blackthorn, which will have the same issues around building safety.
We will take account of all information that we know about the structures, makeup of the blocks, and future estate plans when developing a programme of remedial works.
We will be introducing Waking Watch and changing the fire strategy to Simultaneous Evacuation in all five blocks and looking at the best way to proceed forward with the remedial works.
The landlords offer regarding the Avenue Road Estate is set to go out 11 December 2020. Is that still going ahead?
Yes. The regeneration plans for the estate continue and should not be affected by this work programme, although the types of remedial works that are carried out will depend on future plans for the Estate.