Statement regarding Windrush and Evenlode cladding

Published: Thursday, 3rd August 2017

Oxford City Council confirms it will proceed with the replacement of the rain-screen cladding on Evenlode and Windrush Towers, following the outcome of the Government’s latest large-scale tests.

Government has informed the City Council that the cladding system used at the two Oxford tower blocks failed the test, though it is important to note this only measured the fire resistance of the cladding materials and did not assess the impact of sprinklers and other fire safety countermeasures.  Evenlode and Windrush residents have been updated on the results and they will be invited to a drop-in session to raise any further questions about the replacement programme.

In the light of the test result, Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service has reconfirmed its assessment that the fire safety arrangements at Evenlode and Windrush Towers, which include sprinklers, heat and smoke alarm systems and enhanced emergency response arrangements, mean the towers remain safe for residents while the work proceeds. 

The City Council has decided to reclad Windrush and Evenlode using the same non-combustible sheet aluminium and mineral wool insulation as that being used on other City Council tower blocks. Preparations with contractors to source the materials and installation equipment and set the schedule of works are in their final stages.  Given the extended lead times due to the high level of demand across the country currently, the works are expected to take around to six months to complete.

Councillor Bob Price, Leader of Oxford City Council, said: “From the outset we have put the safety of our tower block residents first - we will not compromise on safety standards. Previously, that meant retrofitting sprinklers when it was not a legal requirement to do so. Now that means futureproofing the buildings’ exteriors to provide long-term reassurance for residents. Despite conflicting guidance from Government, which resulted in it needing to conduct this second round of tests, we have continued to make the necessary preparations for the orderly removal and replacement of the cladding on Evenlode and Windrush Towers. I’m pleased we now have clarity and we will now progress those works as quickly as possible, while seeking to minimise the disruption to residents.”

Simon Furlong Chief Fire Officer of Oxfordshire County Council Fire & Rescue Service, said: “I would like to reiterate the reassurance I previously gave to residents of Oxford’s high-rise towers that Oxford City Council has taken all the necessary fire safety measures to ensure they are safe in their home, while it undertakes the cladding replacement.  Oxford City Council followed our advice to introduce a number of fire safety improvements as part of the recent refurbishment work. This included the installation of new sprinkler systems in flats and communal areas and fire and smoke detection systems connected directly to the fire service. In the event of a fire at any high-rise tower in Oxford, we have the resources in place to ensure a rapid response within our target response times.”

Residents with questions or concerns about fire safety in the tower blocks can telephone 01865 249811 or email towerblocks@oxford.gov.uk, or attend the drop-in session at Blackbird Leys Community Centre early next week.