Grenfell: Checks on external cladding in Northumberland

The aftermath of the Grenfell Tower disaster
The aftermath of the Grenfell Tower disaster

The head of Northumberland’s fire service has set out the county’s response to fire-safety concerns in light of the Grenfell tower tragedy.

Paul Hedley, the county’s Chief Fire Officer, said: “Our thoughts are with all those involved in the Grenfell Tower fire and our colleagues in the emergency services.

Paul Hedley, who will take over as Chief Fire Officer at Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service on July 8.

Paul Hedley, who will take over as Chief Fire Officer at Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service on July 8.

“Across the country, this tragedy has touched us all. While Northumberland does not have any residential tower blocks of the type involved in the Grenfell Tower tragedy, there are residential low-rise premises of up to four storeys. There are, of course, also premises within Northumberland which we know are fitted with external cladding and we are working to establish the type and make of those panels.

“I would like to reassure Northumberland residents that we unaware of any concerns about the safety of any multi-storey residential premises within the county.

“As part of a wide range of measures, we will also be liaising with external partners and contacting premises across the county to provide an offer of support, advice and guidance on fire-safety matters and asking that they take steps themselves to satisfy themselves that there are no safety concerns for the premises for which they are responsible.”

At the weekend, we reported that the county council has promised to find housing for at least two families affected by the Grenfell Tower disaster, on either a temporary or permanent basis.

The local authority has also said that it is fully prepared to respond should a major incident occur within the county.

The council regularly carries out reviews of the emergency procedures that are put into action for major events such as serious flooding, severe winter weather and other incidents.

Coun Peter Jackson, leader of Northumberland County Council, said: “Following the tragic Grenfell Tower fire and aftermath, the council is acutely aware of the importance of a swift and robust response to such an incident from the local authority.

“We would like to reassure residents and communities that Northumberland County Council has detailed plans in place to respond to major incidents, which are regularly tested.

“Over the last week we have been looking at a number of issues with the aim of providing reassurance that suitable procedures are in place and that we have confidence in our processes.”

The council regularly reviews and updates its plans, including how it works with partner agencies to resolve emergency issues and restore normality as soon as is possible. To test arrangements, the council undertakes exercises and trains for these scenarios – including planning how people would be rehoused if their homes were lost or damaged.

This planning ensures the council is ready to act when such a situation arises, as was the case early in December 2015 when Storm Desmond hit the region with devastating effect.

The county council’s emergency severe-weather response plans were activated and a multi-agency control room was established at Northumbria Fire & Rescue Service’s HQ at West Hartford, where Police, Fire and Rescue, Environment Agency and County Council staff converged to put in place a coordinated response to the incident.