Star date: 18th September 2018


"The housing provider has lost the good will of residents through their many failings and deafness when it comes to the residents' concerns..."

Windows about to fall out...dodgy cladding...secret safety reports and loads more going on at the Pendleton Together blocks near Salford Precinct.

Here, in the first of a two part feature, Graeme Langton, the suspended but elected chair of Malus Tenants and Residents' Association, writes about multiple problems residents are facing and suggests some solutions for Salford City Council to ponder.

Full details here...

Pendleton blocks Salford Pendleton blocks Salford
click image to enlarge

After a significant refurbishment of nine blocks for Salford City Council under a Private Finance Initiative (PFI) consortium Pendleton Together, by Together Housing and Keepmoat Regeneration, the work was checked and signed off by the Council's appointees. 

Following the Grenfell Tower blaze in London, the blocks were assessed by building surveyors, Trident, and the Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service, which resulted in the cladding and associated insulation on all nine blocks being deemed dangerous. The cladding used was almost identical to that used on Grenfell Tower. The cladding and insulation combination later failed subsequent safety tests.

So far, the first three storeys of all nine tower blocks have had the cladding replaced by cement boards. However, this is still covering the original insulation. Work has recently started to remove all the cladding and insulation from one block, Plane Court, with the promise of this being carried out on all nine tower blocks affected across the estate over the next two years.

When the refurbishment was being carried out, Keepmoat managed to work on more than one block at a time. Why then is it that this work will take so long, given the wait residents have already had to endure to date? Residents do not see any urgency in the actions being taken, not much logic in how they are currently proceeding.

Plane Court has almost been completely stripped and now has no rain proofing or insulation. There have been no replacement materials anywhere on site. As the seasons change and the weather becomes colder, what is going to happen to the residents of this block?

So why, given the promise that these vulnerable blocks would have the dangerous cladding replaced as a matter of urgency, is this work being carried out with such a laissez-faire approach?

Only a small amount of scaffolding is being constantly erected and broken down as workmen move slowly around Plane Court. The choice of block on which to start the work is puzzling, as Pendleton Together and Salford City Council stated that they would prioritize the taller blocks first as they were the ones out of the reach of the Fire Services appliances.

Although Spruce Court and Thorn Court are the tallest blocks, they do have two staircases, one at either end of the building. Hornbeam Court and Whitebeam Court only have one staircase in case of emergencies. The current work does not seem to conform with what had been stated as the priorities. In the meantime, Fire Marshals provide a 24/7 service patrolling the blocks and car parks.

Amid all of this, however, residents are greatly concerned about other aspects of the refurbishment work, particularly around windows and window safety. Currently there is concern that Juliet Balcony windows/doors, where fitted in lounges are dangerous, with some evidence of glass falling out and windows cracking. As a safety measure, residents are told that they may open these windows on an inward tilt, for ventilation only, but they can open the other windows inwardly.

People living on the ground floor do not have Juliet Balconies, but sliding patio doors instead. They have been told that these 'should not be opened', even in the recent hot spell – which leaves residents with no ventilation to the lounge. Some residents have received tenancy warnings for having their windows open, contrary to Pendleton Together's request. However, it is clear from walking around the estate that there are far more offenders than those receiving such warnings. Why are some residents singled out for this and not others?

It is ironic that Pendleton Together have put metal barriers around ground floor windows in case windows fall out above and informed residents not to open sliding patio doors or enter the space as it is deemed dangerous, while Pendleton Together's gardeners enter without a hard hat or other such protection to cut the grass.

The windows are so dangerous and yet window cleaners are abseiling down them to clean them. Surely this is putting the window cleaners at risk? Are they aware of the issues? The windows are either safe or they are not. There needs to be some common sense and consistency in the production of what have to date been wholly authoritarian and random policies and procedures. Pendleton Together and Salford City Council need to address this with immediate effect.

A lot of residents have sleep disorders combined with mental health issues and it is helpful in maintaining regular sleep patterns to ensure that good ventilation is available, more so due to the recent very hot and humid weather. Some people living here also smoke and now cannot control the odour of stale cigarettes properly unless they can open their windows. This situation has been going on for some time already and this is leading to residents ignoring the restrictions because of previous hot weather and the prolonged nature of the problems.

It must be stressed that parents are very worried about the safety of their children and what may happen with windows, which may fall out or, if cracked, could shatter with serious consequences. The same concerns apply to older residents with balance problems and dementia. There are also those who may be under the influence of alcohol or drugs (prescribed or recreational). There is the potential for such people to attempt to escape by using a window, believing it to be an emergency exit.

The windows in some bedrooms and kitchens create other problems for residents in that they must reach across worktops and window sills to be able to open them. Some residents don't use these windows because they fall out when they do. Others have faulty locks, faulty internal opening mechanisms and have been advised to keep them shut. This may seem like a reasonable request from someone who doesn't have to live there, however, in the recent hot spells temperatures in these flats have reached potentially dangerous levels.

Quoting the advice of some far away national agency doesn't help those overheating in properties with large glass areas, facing the sun for much of the day. In these cases, the request to keep windows closed is wholly unreasonable and other measures should have been put in place.

It would appear, from recently showcased proposals that the current plan is not to change or repair the windows until the new cladding and insulation solution has been installed. There are some residents who have had cracked glass window panels in their flats since they moved back into them following the refurbishment. Nothing has been done for these residents who have reported the problems via the correct channels but have had little or no support in rectifying them. How long before these panels smash altogether showering the area below with glass shards?

This situation gives rise to several areas of concern: actual risk from windows and to residents, and what control measures are in place. Salford City Council should answer fully and directly to residents as the Council ultimately has a duty of care to these residents who are people of Salford...

What remedial action is being taken in respect of the safety of our windows pending the outcome of the widely reported court case? There seems to be no sign of that duty of care towards those with identifiable needs currently being re-housed in tower blocks with scant regard for their safety.

Why has Salford City Council changed its policy regarding children and people with disabilities living in tower blocks, particularly those with a history of self-harm or mental disorders living in tower blocks without height restrictions?

What provision is in place for people needing support from Mental Health Services in tower blocks to help alleviate their anxieties regarding this whole situation? This would include cases of dementia, which is a growing issue, or self-harmers who are often hidden among inner-city social housing?

Why are elderly and disabled people not restricted to the ground and first floors where they can be helped to escape the building? How have re-housing conventions or bylaws, previously held by local authorities, now been relaxed to accommodate less caring housing providers?

I believe that Salford City Council and Pendleton Together are not addressing the above questions and therefore failing in their duty of care...

All windows and window frames in every high-rise block should be checked and a 100% review of properties carried out rather than a casual 10% to see what is failing following the refurbishment.

Residents' concerns should be taken more seriously, because as we saw with Grenfell Tower, people died when authorities didn't listen to them! Large numbers of residents were constantly informing Pendleton Together of the deficiencies in a lot of the work undertaken by Keepmoat. But these concerns went both unbelieved and unactioned with residents seen as ungrateful or habitual complainers.

* All repairs should be carried out immediately, reducing risk and serious injuries. There should be no waiting until it's their turn for their blocks cladding to be removed, before safe repairs can be done, thus putting cost and convenience for the installers above the safety of residents.

* Safety locks for windows, reducing risks of accidental falls or self-harm.

*Revise policies of how flats are allocated for families with children living with them.

* People with disabilities, not just mental but physical too, should be placed on lower floors to assist with access and to reduce the risk of jumping through self-harm.

* Safety film on windows

* Keys for every window in every flat, not just one key per flat.

* Revise the kitchen layout in flats, where people with disabilities cannot reach and open windows, due to obstruction by the kitchen sink and window ledge.

Grabbing/reaching devices were promised for people who had difficulties, but as with everything else, this seems to have been forgotten about. As we are all aware, most fires start in kitchens and, if you cannot reach to open windows, the acrid smell of burning can be a bigger danger than the fire itself.

The housing provider has lost the good will of residents through their many failings and deafness when it comes to the residents' concerns. There now needs to be more openness and transparency around Fire Inspections and Risk Assessments.

Access to the Trident report, submitted to the Council on all work carried out during the refurbishment by Keepmoat, was promised to residents by Salford City Mayor Paul Dennett, and Keepmoat, that has long since been ridiculed as 'Cheapmoat'.

Access to the report would go some way towards redressing the additional fears of a growing number of residents that the reason for its non-disclosure indicates additional problems with the buildings that make repairs cost-prohibitive.

Access to the report was originally promised a year and a half ago. Residents believe that a lot is being decided in secret, behind closed doors, and that it may be the Council's intention to demolish all the high-rise blocks in Pendleton rather than invest good money after bad.

The second part of this feature is now on the Salford Star  website - click here

Words by Graeme Langton

Moved away best move wrote
at 21:14:16 on 21 September 2018
Sorry people, I was not educated in Salford. Sorry for the mistakes in my message. pressed the wrong buttons I should have checked before posting. Jon I did live in the said flats. for 12 years actually. Had some good times but moved away I was sick of the poor me moaners who think the world owes them a living.
Grammar school lad wrote
at 16:58:14 on 21 September 2018
Moved away and Jon both seemed to have had the benefit of a Salford council second rate education. Both make many grammatical mistakes, as indeed I do myself. Whatever will Rees-Mogg think of us?
Rayofsunshine wrote
at 11:02:34 on 21 September 2018
So therefore,Bob the regular, when the cladding was put up it was still legal - given that the government hadn't issued a public warning! Why blame Salford?
Bob the regular wrote
at 05:57:39 on 21 September 2018
Ray, they all new of the dangers, as part of the sales pitch used by rockwool and rockpanel, they used to show a building in australia burning with the shit stuff on. In Kensington ,it was the Tory council, and it was them that controlled the TMO that wasn't really a TMO. They will get the big shit for it all. The biggest offenders are housing providers and Labour councils, perhaps this is because there are not many tower blocks in Alderly edge, Bowden ,Tunbridge Wells etc.They just took a chance because the rules said they could.
Jon Smith wrote
at 05:57:01 on 21 September 2018
Moved away best move, firstly I take it you don't live in these blocks one thing is for sure and that is your a moron as your understanding of the English language with words like netter or maybe you meant better? you give me the money and I would move, and as for your next mess up, "wint be missed" maybe you meant won't be missed? well how would you know that did you see that through the drug induce comer you were in when your wrote that comment???
Salford Star wrote
at 20:45:36 on 20 September 2018
See Pete's comment below...Sorry, we'll get it up asap. With our threadbare resources been pulled all over the place.
pete wrote
at 20:43:39 on 20 September 2018
Dear Editor, where is the second half of this story? Thanks.The first bit here was a good piece.
Rayofsunshine wrote
at 20:42:25 on 20 September 2018
More negativitý from Bob the regular - a perfect posìtion to dèflect Tory culpability for the current cladding crisís! Fact,Gavin Bardswell M.P, Minister of Housing under Davìd Cameron , sat on a report warning of the dangers posed by cladding for over three years, yes three years! What was Bardswell frightened off, Bob??
Bob the regular wrote
at 17:36:40 on 20 September 2018
You would think by now, the residents would have had the good sense to work out that however much they complain, there is nothing going to get done. The simple fact is,there is no money in the "BUD SHIT". That is what these turds always say. "it's the Tories cutbacks". Plenty of good cash was there for these improvements, but these providers wasted it. The only way things can get sorted is if people have a tennants management organisation. Thing is they will not get off their arses to do it, and if a few of the residents try to do one, all the rest will say"whats in it for them, they must be making something out of it". Jealousy and pig ignorance. This happened to a mate of mine who tried to set one up. I have sadly come to the conclusion now that nothing is ever going to get sorted, ever.Let us prove this by getting corbyn elected,for sure he will throw more cash at the problem, but this is only more money to waste for the fat cats.Labour like people to be poor,it makes people vote for them.
Moved away best move wrote
at 17:36:21 on 20 September 2018
As ive said before. If the landlords in Salford are SO BAD. MOVE....... make your life netter. its called personal responsibility. Im sure you wint be missed Jon.
Former resident wrote
at 10:23:44 on 20 September 2018
I listen to what Bob says, and there is merit in what he says, but the thing is, you cannot leave that stuff on the outside wall, it is still a hazard, not as much now as we know about it,and can evacuate people faster, but still a hazard. It is also a big hazard to the whole building, even if everyone got out ok.There would be no shortage of scaffolders and people to rip the old stuff off. Give me the cash and I'll get a block stripped off in 2 weeks. These firms are all strapped for cash,thats all there is to it.
Jon Smith wrote
at 10:23:10 on 20 September 2018
No one is going to get the truth out of ether the council or Pendleton Together and they are ignoring the people who pay their wages, and the Councillors need to think about how the people of Salford are going to vote at the next election, has anyone seen any councillors since Paul Dennitt announced "we are removing the cladding, we are not waiting for the government" or bullshit like that, whatever comes out of his or Pendleton Together s mouths reeks of a farmyard after the cows have dumped their loads. The Council and Pendleton Together do not like or want residents talking to the press or media, and this has been obvious from day one, well they are not going to stop residents talking and telling it as it is. How petty can Pendleton Together Get, BBC5 Live wanted to talk to residents who live in high rise blocks, to ask them what they like about living in high rise buildings, and how they feel as a community. I did the right thing and informed the Pendleton Together Housing Officer for Thorn and explained that it was not to do with the cladding but about how people felt living in these blocks, at the weekend we put up poster informing residents about the BBC coming to the block, today the poster had been removed and the security guard on duty told me that Pendleton Together had told him that we could not use our community room for the BBC to talk to residents. Pendleton Together did not even have the decency to contact me to tell me this, they don’t want residents to talk to each other let alone the media. One has to ask what are they afraid off? Pendleton Together are becoming a dictatorship and anyone who stands up to them they try to bully or intimidate, the management team at Pendleton Together are destroying our communities not bringing them together, they have closed at least one community room on the square and refused to allow residents from Spruce Court to use their community room with the excuse that that don’t have a constituted residents committee, they change the rues when they don’t like it when they get challenged. They keep telling residents that their safety and Wellbeing come first, and this is just a joke as only last week one resident who is disabled and spends most of his time in a wheelchair told me that he had reported the radiator in his bathroom was falling off the wall and this was seven weeks ago and even through he was told it was a priority he is still waiting, plus he has to keep one of his windows in his flat open as it douse not fit properly and if he closes it all he can hear is whistling, he also complained about the extractor hood over his cooker not working as it blows when it should extract the steam from the cooking, he told me that when he spoke to Pendleton Together they told him it was nothing to do with them as Keepmote had provided them as a goodwill gesture because of all the disruption during the refurbishment of the tower blocks. I have phoned Pendleton Together today and informed them if these jobs were not done soon I would be contacting health and safety. (I should also add that my cooker hood does the same). Another resident who is 84 and in very bad health has reported that one of his windows was falling out, someone came and took a look at it weeks ago and it still has not been fixed, this man was also disrupted for over three weeks while Pendleton Together fitted a wet room, he was left with no toilet and was using a bucket and having to come down 22 floors to get rid of his wast in the community room, this is how caring Pendleton Together are, NOT Its time for the council and Pendleton Together to start to listen because if they keep ignoring us they are going to end up with direct action by residents demonstrating outside the Town Hall and Pendleton Together or even occupying there buildings.
Bob wrote
at 14:41:37 on 19 September 2018
I am commenting only on the remedial schemes to replace cladding, insulation and fire barriers in the buildings. The reason that such schemes are taking so long to deliver is for a number of reasons. The overriding challenge is that the government (MHCLG) has been consistently moving the goal posts on how Building Regulation compliance can be achieved. To date they are still in a consultant process on changes to the Building Regulation process and also whether materials of limited combustibility can be used. Only last week the MHCLG issued a circular to all building control teams advising them that they should no longer rely on desk top studies or engineered solutions as a way of achieving Building Regs compliance for the cladding/insulation. These changes cause builders/cladding companies massive problems as it potentially means cladding systems that are being installed will require testing. This leads to the second challenge/reason for big delays. RESOURCE - there is a huge shortage of expertise in terms of fire engineers and cladding consultants who can work on these schemes. Hundreds (probably more than a 1000) buildings across the country and affected and there are not enough people to provide the expertise. The timeline for testing is backlogged and many contractors are having to test systems abroad, 6 month waiting lists for this. Materials - what materials are to be used to replace the cladding, insulation etc - again there is a timescale for being able to get hold of these and the challenge is getting it right as the government has still not signed off on any formal changes to the Building Regs process. Local Authorities who have rushed to remove cladding and replace it with something else will invariably find themselves having to do this all over again at some point in the next 12-24 months. Wait and see.
pete wrote
at 19:46:12 on 18 September 2018
Such slow progress, on such essential work must show that these people are out of cash. Whatever job you do now, health and safety has to be top priority. You cannot gamble with peoples life or safety.
Bob the regular wrote
at 19:46:06 on 18 September 2018
It's a total XXXXXXX mess. These windows were not cheap windows. There should be no trouble with these. We can all guess who these slimy cowardly bastards are going to blame for all this. I am just waiting for them. These people make my blood boil. The Stars full dosier on all this should be sent to the local boss of the health and safety executive, and a receipt obtained for it so it doesn't get lost.The health and safety mob will cover their arses by going to town on this housing provider. Terrible.
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