Green Councillors have released a short report about the combustible cladding on Hanover Tower in Sheffield.
Hanover Tower is a 15-storey block of 116 council flats around a single staircase. Like Grenfell Tower, it is home to ethnically diverse and often low-income families. An estimated 78% of residents don’t have ready access to the internet.
- After the Grenfell fire in 2017, the cladding on Hanover Tower was tested and found to be a material that failed fire safety tests.
- Prior to installation in 2012, residents were consulted and told the cladding would be aluminium. Elected councillors on the planning committee were also told the panels would be aluminium.
- Residents also raised the question of fire safety at the planning committee, which recommended a new fire risk assessment.
- After the public consultations ended, council housing officers began referring to “Alucobond”, the composite material that was eventually fitted instead of solid aluminium.
- An investigation was promised in July 2017 but the report has only now been released – over three years later.
- In December 2018, the Council accepted there were no plans to claim costs against the contractors. However, in February 2019, it appointed external solicitors to advise it.
- Green Councillors are now calling for further action to be taken.
The report is available at www.sheffieldgreenparty.org.uk/hanover
Councillor Angela Argenzio, of Broomhill & Sharrow Vale Ward, where the tower is situated, said,
“The residents of the Hanover Tower have waited a long time for this report that in fact provides no answers. They have endured three years of stress and the inconvenience of living on a building site.
“Although the re-cladding work is itself complete, things are not back to normal as the green space surrounding the tower is still fenced off to allow the grass ruined by the heavy machinery to re-grow. Residents have endured all of lockdown without the opportunity to use the green space immediately outside their homes and they won’t be able to use it until next year, as the new grass needs to be established. People want to get on with their lives and put the whole episode behind them and yet they are reminded of it daily as their children cannot play outside.”
Her ward colleague, Councillor Kaltum Rivers added,
“Despite the length of time involved in the production of this report, residents are still left with the distinct impression that the same mistakes could be made again. The lack of accountability for the errors, oversights and apparent omissions from the various partners and council officers throughout the course of the project is astounding and utterly unacceptable.
“If nothing else, what should follow on from this debacle is a significant change in the way contracts are awarded by the council so that those individuals and groups entrusted and paid to ensure the safety and quality of works accept the responsibility of failures that their positions are intended to prevent.”
Councillor Douglas Johnson, leader of Sheffield’s Green group of councillors, said,
“It’s been three years; three Cabinet members – and still no answers.
“It’s totally unacceptable that residents and councillors were told one thing but officers decided they knew best. Even worse is that it has taken over three years to expose these failures. It is almost two years since the council admitted no claims would be brought against the contractor. If residents and councillors can’t trust paid officers to do what they say, it is no wonder the council suffers from resentment and distrust amongst its tenants and the wider public.”
“We are therefore calling for a number of steps to learn from these revelations.”
Sian Berry, co-leader of the Green Party of England and Wales and a member of the London Assembly, added her comments on the Hanover Tower revelations, stating,
“Time and again we have seen dangerous changes made to homes and the details of contracts and errors swept under the carpet.
“All this was supposed to change after the Grenfell disaster but everywhere tenants and leaseholders are still being kept in the dark. A better future is only possible if residents have more real control over the decision affecting their homes.”
The Green councillors are now asking that the report is discussed at a Scrutiny Committee in line with a resolution of full council in July 2017.
- The Green councillors’ report, together with the council’s own report is available at www.sheffieldgreenparty.org.uk/hanover
- Cllrs Argenzio and Rivers have requested the Cabinet Member for:
a) proper compensation for tenants and leaseholders for the incredible stress and inconvenience unnecessarily caused by nearly three years of work on the tower block and waiting for a report that was delayed several times.
b) disciplinary action against relevant officers.
proposals for learning from the apparent failure of officers to perform their roles competently that put residents’ lives at risk and which have been exposed in c) this report.
- Full council adopted the motion of Cllr Rob Murphy on 5th July 2017 to request a report to the Scrutiny Committee setting out:-
(i) the reasons why the Hanover Tower Block came to fail fire safety tests;
(ii) the cause of the failures; and
(iii) the implications for other work carried out under the Decent Homes improvement scheme and for any other buildings in Sheffield.
Cllr Rivers has requested the report be on the agenda of the next meeting of the Safer and Stronger Communities Scrutiny and Policy Development Committee