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City to replace fire doors on SE1 estates despite jump in costs

Julia Gregory, Local Democracy Reporter

The cost of replacing hundreds of front doors on City of London-owned homes - including Avondale Square and the William Blake Estate in SE1 - has climbed from less than £5 million to nearly £9 million.

City to replace fire doors on SE1 estates despite jump in costs
The Avondale Square Estate is just off the Old Kent Road. Photo by Michael Gwyther-Jones used under a Creative Commons licence.

The City of London Corporation, which has council homes on two estates in the Square Mile as well as eight other estates in six London boroughs – including Southwark and Lambeth – is replacing doors following a review triggered by the Grenfell Tower blaze.

Like other councils it mounted a review of its fire doors after the fire and discovered that "the the front doors of many units did not meet present standards and were a significant risk to the compartmentation of the units".

Compartmentation is designed to prevent fire spreading throughout a building.

It discovered that the doors withstood fire for an average of 16 minutes – which was predicted for doors in their original condition. The new doors should be able to resistant a blaze for up to 60 minutes, with a minimum of 30 minutes.

When we reported on the fire door replacement programme in 2017, the cost was put at £3 million to £5 million – but the latest estimate is £8.9 million.

The Corporation said that most of the front entrance doors were the same ones as were originally installed and have reached the end of their natural life. At the time the timber doors were expected to last between 20 to 30 years.

Councillor Randall Anderson who chairs the community and children's services committee said: "Random sample destruction testing of several front entrance doors has indicated an average fire resistance time of 16 minutes. Although this is in line with what was predicted for doors in their original condition, it gives serious cause for concern when set against recommendations from many of the 2018 Fire Risk Assessments."

The project will also see replacement panel surrounds and fanlight windows, communal corridor fire doors, fire escape doors from flats, and any doors to electrical intake cupboards that need to be fire rated.

The move comes after the corporation voted to instal sprinkler systems in flats as a further measure to prevent fires spreading.

Last year the council had to send doors for testing in Poland as there was such a backlog as councils queued up to test their doors after the death of 72 people at Grenfell in 2017.

It will cost the City of London £8.9 million to replace the doors, including £990,000 fess and staff costs.

The new front doors should give up to an hour's fire resistance , with an "absolute minimum" of 30 minutes.

It will procure work on an estate by estate basis as the quickest way to doors up to standard at the same time across the housing estates.

The money will come out of the corporation's Housing Revenue Account and will include the replacement of front doors to long leaseholders' flats, which are also the City Corporation's responsibility.

The project does not include new blocks at Horace Jones House, in Southwark, the £7 milllion Twelve Acres House completed in 2016, houses owned by the City and Petticoat Square which has recently seen upgrades to its front doors and Petticoat Tower, Great Arthur House in the Barbican where doors are already being replaced.

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