Serious safety concerns exist for St Ann’s Quay apartment building on Newcastle Quayside due to its combustible aluminum composite material (ACM) cladding, similar to panels which contributed to the spread of the Grenfell fire.
After the Grenfell Tower fire, which caused the deaths of 72 people in June 2017, the government promised a fire safety revolution for high-rise residents. Four years on, progress to remove dangerous cladding and improve fire safety has been dangerously slow.
In November 2019, an evaluation of St Ann’s Quay found that not only did the building fail to meet new fire safety standards, it was also in violation of safety laws when it was built in 2003. Combustible ACM cladding covers much of the building's upper floors, the columns which run the length of the building and its exterior decorative fins.
Adding further to the fire risk, problems with cavity fire stopping have been identified and there is concern about the building's timber balconies. Fire safety issues have left residents of St Ann's Quay unable to sell or remortgage their properties. The cost of the necessary repair work required is £2 million, roughly £30,000 per apartment owner.
Last year, the government promised £200 million in ACM cladding remediation funding. St Ann’s Quay’s application to replace unsafe cladding was refused due to the building’s “complexities”. Years have past since the tragedy of Grenfell and nothing has been done to protect Newcastle’s high-rise residents. ACM cladding has been proved to accelerate the spread of fire but the only change St Ann's Quay residents have experienced is a ban on BBQs.
Fortunately, the government is “currently reviewing registrations” and releasing a further £1 billion as part of the Building Safety Fund. St Ann’s Quay’s residents are now pinning all hope of renovations on this secondary funding pot. Director of St Ann’s management company, Louise Richley, is hopeful that this time their application will be accepted, but and this is "a big 'but' because we didn't before and we don't know what will be different this time. Today, I just can't give people any certainty.”