The recent ban on combustible building materials by the government, introduced in the wake of the 2017 Grenfell Tower fire, is only for buildings that stand higher than 18 metres – or six storeys – high.
The Cube student block in Bolton that caught fire last Friday was six storeys and so outside the scope of the new rules. The Fire Protection Association (FPA) said that it “provides a stark reminder that the problem facing UK fire safety is the result of many issues and not just Grenfell style ACM cladding”.
“Clearly, we should not limit regulations to the mere height of a building,” the FPA says.
While investigations into the fire continue, the FPA says that it is clear that the high pressure laminate (HPL) and timber cladding components played a large part in the fire’s progress, possibly in association with the insulation and cavity membranes present.
Since Grenfell, all the focus has been on aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding. “HPL has been talked about to some degree, but no doubt thorough investigations and consideration have been hampered by it not being the focus of a major incident – until now,” the FPA said.
Jonathan O’Neill, managing director of the Fire Protection Association, commented: “The fires at the Bolton student block, Worcester Park in London and the Beechmere care village in Cheshire, prove we cannot be housing people in buildings made from combustible materials. This issue needs to be addressed urgently; it simply cannot wait. We urge this issue to be a priority for the new government.”