A “waking watch” patrol has been introduced at a block of flats in Glasgow after fire safety issues were identified.
The measure will see a team of fire safety experts patrol the grounds and buildings 24/7 at Lancefield Quay, on the banks of the River Clyde, in order to alert residents if a blaze does break out.
The Scottish Government said it had stepped in to take action – described as a temporary measure – because developers failed to make the necessary improvements after a report late last year highlighted concerns.
Housing secretary Shona Robison has now challenged them to “step up and take responsibility for work to keep the residents in their buildings safe”.
The Scottish Government refused to say how much the patrols are costing, citing commercial confidentiality.
The action is being taken following a fire safety engineer’s report for the site in late December. This was passed to the developers, with urgent negotiations then taking place between them and Scottish Government officials.
However, the Government said the company concerned had failed to implement the necessary safety measures – resulting in it intervening to ensure appropriate safeguards are in place.
Robison said: “We have been engaging urgently with the developers of these buildings, they must step up and take responsibility for work to keep the residents in their buildings safe.
“The safety of residents is our utmost priority – that’s why the Scottish Government is intervening now to fund this work and ensure enhanced safeguards are in place as quickly as possible.
“Our negotiations with the developers are ongoing and it is my sincerest hope that a resolution can be found.
“These are temporary measures while improvements are made at this site – residents have been informed.”
STV News has obtained a copy of a letter sent by the Scottish Government sent to residents at Lancefield Quay, which says an urgent solution is required in order to safeguard homeowners and residents at the development.
The letter states: “I appreciate that this is a difficult and stressful situation.
“The safety of residents and homeowners in Scotland is our utmost priority and this is why we are taking this precautionary action today. “I also appreciate that you are likely to have questions about this decision. We are in the process of setting up a briefing session for members of your residents committee and your factor to provide further information.”
The Scottish Government says residents at the complex will have 24-hour protection from a team of fire safety experts until longer-term safety measures are put in place.
David Murdoch, local senior officer for the City of Glasgow at the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, said: “We continue to work closely with stakeholders in the Scottish Government’s Single Building Assessment Programme.
“We will continue to provide safety advice and support to building owners, partners and the residents of the buildings which have been identified.”
The Scottish Conservatives criticised the Scottish Government for not utilising money it received from the UK Government as part of the Building Safety Fund for addressing life-safety fire risks associated with cladding on high rise residential buildings.
Miles Briggs, Scottish Conservative shadow housing secretary, said: “This is very worrying for residents, who will understandably be deeply alarmed about the risks of them continuing to live in these flats.
“SNP ministers may have intervened in this situation, but they have been found sorely wanting when it comes to spending funding specifically designed to remove combustible cladding from buildings like this.
“They have spent a tiny fraction of a near £100m fund given by the UK government, so they should be ashamed of their inaction.
“Ministers must take a hands-on role especially as previous issues have already been identified in this building. They must keep residents updated at every turn and ensure that our hardworking firefighters have every resource they need to carry out these vital patrols.”
Cladding removal project in doubt
Safety fears over combustible cladding were raised following the Grenfell Tower tragedy in London in 2017, when a fire tore through the high-rise residential building, claiming 72 lives.
The Scottish Government announced last year it would expand the country’s assessment programme for cladding on high-rise buildings, with housing developers working alongside ministers to ensure properties are safe.
Robison said “every penny” of the £97.1m received in consequential for 2021/22, as well as any additional funding, would be invested into assessing buildings and ensuring they are of a safe standard.
But internal documents, obtained last October through freedom of information requests, reveal the future of the Scottish Government’s cladding replacement scheme is at risk.
The Delivery Confidence Assessment revealed the programme in Scotland to replace cladding had been downgraded to “amber/red” – which means “successful delivery of the project in doubt with major risks or issues apparent”.
It said “urgent action” is required to establish whether a resolution is achievable.
The report from June 2022 revealed there is “no business case and accompanying plan”.
It went on to say that the review team was “disappointed” to learn recommendations from the previous report had not been implemented.
What is the Single Building Assessment Programme?
Some of the country’s largest housing developers have agreed to work with the Scottish Government and others to address cladding issues.
A Single Building Assessment is a comprehensive inspection of whole blocks of domestic residential buildings – looking at fire safety and suitability for mortgage lending.
The Scottish Government says there is no cost to property owners for these assessments, which identify what needs to be mitigated or remediated on a building-by-building basis, and in line with the most current building standards.