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Housing

‘Ministers are failing us’ say campaigners as London flats go up in flames

Grenfell fire survivors have urged ministers to speed up cladding removal after firefighters tackled a blaze at New Providence Wharf in Poplar

Grenfell survivors and anti-cladding campaigners have called on the Westminster government to act after a fire broke out at a high-rise block of flats reportedly wrapped in the same dangerous cladding that led to the Grenfell Tower disaster.

Two men were taken to hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation and a further 38 adults and four children were treated at the scene after a fire broke out at New Providence Wharf in Poplar, East London at 8:30 on Friday morning.

More than 125 firefighters fought the blaze on parts of the eighth, ninth and 10th floors of the 19-storey block. All residents were evacuated from the building.

The aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding on the building drew comparisons to Grenfell with campaigners urging ministers to act quickly to remove it from buildings.

Giles Grover, spokesman for the End Our Cladding Campaign, told The Big Issue: “We are devastated to see this fire happen at a building that still has ACM cladding.

He added: “Our full ire is directed at the government. Ministers have chosen to deny the full scale of the building safety crisis. The Government must just stop simply focusing on managing the news cycle and now finally ensure that there is a coordinated approach to dealing with this scandal, which involves all stakeholders, rather than the current piecemeal and disjointed strategy.

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“It owes this duty of care to millions of affected leaseholders across the country. Ministers are failing us – and this must stop. Now.”

A Grenfell United spokesperson said: “The Government needs to treat this as an emergency and stop stonewalling residents who are raising concerns. No more games, no more excuses.

“We’ve said all along that another tragedy is waiting to happen unless this crisis is dealt with properly and swiftly. Our thoughts are with those affected.”

New Providence Wharf is one of four residential buildings on the same estate operated by property developer Ballymore Group.  

A Ballymore spokesperson told The Big Issue the dangerous ACM cladding features on approximately 22 per cent of the façade.

Work started to remove the cladding last week, according to Ballymore, with the main contractor due to take possession of the site on May 10.

The fire drew comparisons to Grenfell from Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, who is currently awaiting the results of yesterday’s election. Khan said: “My thoughts are with all those affected by this very serious fire.

“The spectre of the tragedy at Grenfell still hangs over our city. Today we have seen again why residents in buildings with flammable cladding are living in fear.

“It is vital that government, developers, building owners and local and regional authorities work together to urgently remove the cladding from every affected building.”

Thangam Debbonaire, Labour’s shadow housing secretary, added: “It is a disgrace that, four years on, this tower still had the same cladding as Grenfell – and four years on, we are yet again seeing the horrifying results of inaction.”

The blaze comes a week after the Fire Safety Act 2021 was given royal assent following disagreement in parliament about who should pay for the costs of replacing the dangerous ACM cladding.

The cladding has been cited as a contributing factor to the 2017 tragedy at Grenfell Tower – 10 miles away from New Providence Wharf.

The Grenfell tragedy saw a fire break out at the 24-storey block of flats in North Kensington. 72 people died, with a further 70 injured and 223 others escaping from the building.

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