Oxford among first to complete replacement of cladding on tower blocks

Published: Monday, 18th June 2018

The City Council has completed the replacement of rain screen cladding on Evenlode and Windrush tower blocks in Blackbird Leys, putting it among some of the first local authorities in the country to do so. 

The rain-screen cladding on Evenlode and Windrush Towers has now been replaced with the improved non-combustible Opus Euroclad, an A1 solid aluminium sheet.  Mast climbers at the two sites have now been taken down and works to the new entrances continue and are due for completion by mid-July 2018.

Following the Grenfell disaster in June 2017, the City Council acted swiftly, working with Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, to review the fire safety measures in the two towers and ensure they were safe. The Council had already included the fitting of sprinklers within the scope of the £20m improvement works across its five tower blocks that began in January 2016. 

Under direction from the Government, the City Council sent samples of the rain-screen cladding on Evenlode and Windrush towers for the initial round of testing. As the samples failed those tests, the City Council committed to remove and replace the material in compliance with government guidance, with recladding works starting in January this year.

The Council has welcomed the Government’s announcement to fully fund the cost of replacing cladding and hopes to recover the £1m it spent from the £400m recladding fund announced by the Prime Minister last month.

The recladding of Windrush and Evenlode towers marks the last phase of the City Council’s £21m tower blocks repairs project which began in January 2016.

Cllr Mike Rowley, Board Member for Housing, said: “I’m pleased that we have completed the replacement of cladding on the two tower blocks ahead of schedule and given the residents added reassurance that they’re safe in their own homes. The ongoing Grenfell inquiry is likely to lead to recommendations to the Government that may lead to further changes in guidance in relation to fire safety. The Council will adopt any such changes as advised by the Government. Across the five tower blocks under our £21m repairs programme, workers are in the final stages of resolving small snagging elements to complete what has been a large scale construction project. We have completed this process with roughly 80 per cent of the flats already.”

The City Council has exceeded legal requirements in terms of the whole safety system in all five tower blocks. Fire safety precautions that had already been undertaken before the recladding works include:

  • Sprinklers in all flats, directly connected to the Fire Service 
  • Heat and smoke detectors in all communal areas, directly connected to the Fire Service 
  • Non-combustible insulation
  • Fire breaks within the cladding system
  • Upgraded communal area fire doors and flat entrance fire doors
  • Automatic venting system to stairwell to remove smoke
  • Upgraded fire seals to waste chutes