A student accommodation block in Bolton is ablaze this morning after the outside cladding of the building caught fire, witnesses describing the flames as “climb[ing] up the cladding” in a chilling echo of the Grenfell Tower tragedy that claimed 72 lives just over 29 months ago.
Everyone is believed to have escaped the inferno at The Cube, a 6-story building in the Bradshawgate area of the town, with residents and witnesses posting images from the blaze across social media and describing the horrifying speed with which the cladding caught fire.
Residents have described how they have lost everything in the fire, with one discovering that the balcony below was ablaze.
Questions are already being raised about the state of the building, in particular, the fact that fire alarms did not appear to have worked, with residents helping to raise the alarm throughout the building.
In 2017, students in Bolton were assured that their accommodation did not have fallable Grenfell style cladding with fire safety officers visiting The Cube in Bradshawgate. Angela McKinney, operations manager for student accommodation owner DIGS said at the time that safety inspectors were “happy” with what they had seen at The Cube.
Just yesterday the Labour Party highlighted the fact that the Conservative government has been dragging their feet over removing Grenfell style cladding from buildings, new statistics out yestertday revealed that:
- 267 blocks still haven’t had Grenfell-style cladding removed and replaced
- Nine in 10 private blocks have not had Grenfell-style cladding replaced
- 69 block owners do not even have a plan in place to remove the cladding.
According to Labour’s analysis, at the current pace, the government will miss its targets for removing Grenfell style ACM cladding off tower blocks by almost a decade.
After repeated Labour pressure, the Tory government finally set targets, just before the summer recess, to see social blocks completed by the end of the year and private blocks by June 2020.
But at the current rate, the social sector will not be made safe until October 2022 and private blocks until October 2033.
Labour has set out a five-point plan to force the pace of re-cladding on private tower blocks, including updating the sanctions available to councils under the Housing Act 2004 to include fines, followed by confiscation of blocks that still have dangerous cladding.
Earlier this year at Prime Minister’s Questions, Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn called for a deadline of the end of the year for all dangerous cladding to be removed and replaced.
John Healey, Labour’s Shadow Housing Secretary, said:
“It shames the Conservatives that two and a half years after the Grenfell Tower fire, thousands of tower block residents are still living in homes with deadly cladding.
“Jacob Rees-Mogg showed the Tories’ true colours recently when he suggested the victims of Grenfell lacked ‘common sense’ and should have escaped. The fact is, Boris Johnson’s Conservatives simply don’t seem to care.”