Southwark's high rise block record worsening fire safety ratings year on year
Southwark's high rise blocks record worsening fire safety ratings year on year.
For three years, we have recorded and analysed the annual fire risk assessments for Southwark Council's 170+ high rise blocks.
Our latest audit demonstrates that overall, fire safety ratings are worsening year upon year.
(Photo credit: Redman House, Southwark by Prof. Paul Wenham-Clarke)
In summer 2019, our first audit showed that 67% of Southwark owned blocks were considered to be beyond 'tolerable' fire risk. This indicated that significant work would need to be undertaken across the borough in order to improve overall fire safety.
In early 2021, our second audit demonstrated that 44 blocks had since seen a worsened safety rating, 21 blocks had since seen an improved safety rating and 100 blocks had recorded no change or improvement to their previous ratings.
Our third audit, carried out in January 2022 in partnership with Tower Blocks UK, shows the picture continuing to worsen, with fire safety improvement works appearing not to be keeping up with the scale of deficiencies being discovered.
Since their previous assessments:
38 blocks now show a worsened rating
12 blocks now show an improved rating
95 blocks show no change to their previous rating
Of the 95 blocks with no change, only 17 of these are considered to be at 'Tolerable' risk 50 blocks are considered 'Low Moderate' risk and 28 blocks are 'High Moderate' risk.
(Data was unavailable for 28 blocks, either because an updated fire risk assessment had not yet been published, or because the blocks are in the process of being decommissioned.)
Southwark Council's own guidance says that where blocks are rated at Low Moderate risk level 'consideration should be given to lowering the risk' and where blocks are rated at High Moderate risk level 'considerable efforts should be made to reduce the risk.'
In the latest audit, there is evidence of blocks having been rated at 'High Moderate' risk in past consecutive years, now worsening to 'Substantial' risk - raising question over whether this could have been avoided if earlier action had been taken.
Whilst a fire risk assessment is just a snapshot and the rating outcome can be affected by conditions on the day - our research demonstrates that there are more serious and fundamental issues within the borough. On one estate, for example, recent major works have been cited in the fire risk assessment as the reason for breaches in compartmentation leading to a new 'Substantial' fire risk rating.
Newer build council blocks; including Sylvan Grove in Rotherhithe and Churchyard Row in Borough & Bankside have been rated at 'High Moderate' fire risk, despite both developments being less than 5 years old. In both cases, the blocks have remained at the same risk level since 2019.
We shared our 2nd audit report with Southwark Council and its relevant cabinet members at a Housing and Community Engagement Scrutiny Commission meeting in February 2021, the committee promised to look into the issue and report back. We are still awaiting a response..
View XL spreadsheet data for January 2022 Southwark Fire Risk Assessments below