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Tower tenants to know in days if cladding is fire risk

The Grenfell Tower fire was over two weeks ago but cladding from Welsh tower blocks has only been sent for testing in the last few days. Photo: PA

ITV Cymru Wales has learned that samples from the seven Welsh tower blocks with Aluminium Composite Material cladding were sent for testing this week, with the results expected back in the next few days. It's now more than two weeks since the Grenfell Tower disaster in London, where similar cladding is thought to have caused fire to spread with catastrophic speed.

Over 100 samples from English tower blocks have failed a new test devised since the disaster. The material forming a thin layer of insulation between two aluminium sheets is removed from a panel and a 25 square centimetre sample is sent to the Building Research Establishment in Watford, near London.

It's tested for its fire resistance and placed in one of three categories.

  • Category 1: Limited combustibility
  • Category 2: Some fire retardant properties
  • Category 3: No fire retardant properties

Only Category 1 is considered to have passed the new fire safety test. The Welsh Government is paying for the testing, which was devised for the Department of Communities and Local Government in England. Both the Welsh Government and the social landlords who own the tower blocks will be told the results and the landlords will then inform the tenants.

Evacuation would only be considered if a tower block's overall fire safety was considered inadequate, as happened in the London Borough of Camden, where defective fire doors and poorly protected gas pipes were found.

None of the seven Welsh blocks -four in Swansea and three at undisclosed locations- have the same make of panel as was used on the Grenfell Tower. But it's still possible that their panels use similar polyethylene insulation. They could alternatively have mineral wool insulation, which is considered safer, or a blend of the two types.

The current round of testing only covers blocks which are owned by social landlords and are more than seven stories (or 18 metres) high. Private landlords have also been contacted and advised to have any panels tested. Schools and hospitals have also been told to ensure that their fire safety is up to standard.

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