OXFORD City Council is reassuring residents that their East Oxford homes remain safe, as it confirmed that cladding would be removed from their building.

With the fallout from the Grenfell Tower disaster still ongoing, the city council is set to complete work involving five Oxford tower blocks, in a £1.5 million project.

Yesterday, the council's housing team and Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service met residents at most heavily impacted Hockmore Tower, Cowley, to answer questions and deliver letters on the plan, which is set to be completed by January 2020.

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Blocks in Headington and Blackbird Leys are also due to have less significant work done, though work in Headington does not involve cladding.

The decision follows a partial clarification from the Government last week on cladding.

Oxfordshire’s Chief Fire Officer has confirmed to residents that the building is safe – and will remain so during and after work to replace a rain screen, known as Trespa FR (Fire Resistant) which features a High-Pressure Laminate (HPL).

Simon Furlong stressed that the building has sprinklers; heat and smoke detectors in all communal areas; upgraded fire doors; non-combustible insulation beneath the HPL rain screen; fire breaks within the cladding system; automatic venting systems to stairwells and upgraded fire seals to waste chutes.

He said: "(The) five tower blocks are safe to live in.

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“When we assess safety we look at the building in the round. Hockmore Tower – with its fire alarms, upgraded fire doors, evacuation policy and, especially, its sprinklers – far exceeds the standards required to (deem) the building safe.”

In May it emerged that a cladding system featuring an HPL rain screen and combustible insulation had failed a fire safety test.

The Government is yet to carry out its own tests – but last week confirmed that block owners needed to remove such material.

Insulation manufacturer Rockwool had estimated that almost 1,700 buildings have potentially combustible cladding materials, a large proportion of which are HPL.

At Hockmore, the tower's facade is 40 per cent HPL, with non-combustible insulation.

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In Blackbird Leys, Evenlode and Windrush tower blocks' rain screens cover only balcony panels – less than 10 per cent of the façades. The buildings had other cladding removed in 2018.

Foresters and Plowman towers, in Headington, are clad with sheet aluminium rain screen and non-combustible insulation. Only minor 'snagging' work will be done there, according to Oxford City Council.

The council says it will again seek to recover the cost of replacement cladding from the Government. Residents will not be charged.

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Contractors Fortem estimates that it will take three to four months to replace the cladding with aluminium - but a start date has not been set.

Councillor Mike Rowley, cabinet member for affordable housing, added: “We will not compromise on safety.

“We have gone above and beyond legal requirements at every stage to ensure an enhanced level of fire safety for the families living in our five tower blocks.

“We are acting quickly to remove and replace the cladding.”

A dedicated email address and phone line have also been set up for residents of Oxford’s tower blocks.

They are 01865 249811 and towerblocks@oxford.gov.uk. For more information, visit oxford.gov.uk/hockmore

  • This article has been updated to make clear that cladding will only be removed on three of the blocks - not all five. Foresters and Plowman blocks, in Headington, are only having minor 'snagging' work done, according to Oxford City Council.