We have all been horrified by the Grenfell Tower fire in London and dismayed at the tragic loss of so many lives. Not surprisingly I have been contacted by some constituents who live in some of our Bristol West high-rise blocks, now fearful of their own safety, and I’m aware that many more have voiced their concerns to local councillors and others.
I know Bristol City Council has acted swiftly, with a letter to all residents in the 59 high-rise blocks in our city, to give reassurances on the safety measures in place. And I have spoken at length to Councillor Paul Smith, Bristol Council Cabinet Member for Housing, and representatives from Avon Fire and Rescue Service to get further reassurances about the safety of these homes. They’ll continue to keep me fully briefed over the coming days.
Today I have received from Avon Fire and Rescue Service a schedule of visits to the 31 council tower blocks in the Bristol West constituency.
You can find the schedule of visits in Bristol West here.
Mayor Marvin Rees will join councillors, officers from Avon Fire and Rescue Service, and neighbourhood officers from Avon and Somerset Police throughout this week on these visits. They'll aim to update residents and address any concerns they may have about safety. Meanwhile, Avon Fire and Rescue Service have stressed to me that any resident (whether in social housing or private accommodation) can book a free home fire safety visit if they are still worried: https://www.avonfire.gov.uk/our-services/home-fire-safety-visits.
It still remains unclear what caused the devastating fire in London. But I do know that our Bristol homes have many different safety features to the ones in Kensington. For example, Bristol City Council has carried out an extensive programme over the last five years to improve fire safety in our blocks so that they meet fire safety standards, and that programme will continue for the next ten years; all of our blocks have a firebreak on every floor, so any fire cannot spread upwards; every flat is wired with smoke alarms; all 59 of our high-rise blocks have been properly checked by the Avon Fire and Rescue Service in the last three months; and any cladding added to our blocks in recent years has been installed with completely different materials, system, and contractor to those used in Grenfell Tower.
The government has initiated a public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire, with a report expected more quickly than usual. I already have assurance from the council that any recommendations from the inquiry will be implemented promptly, if they don’t already feature in our Bristol blocks. I’m very aware that the coroner’s recommendations after the 2009 fire in the Camberwell high-rise block –such as an overhaul of building regulations – were not carried out by the government, despite assurances. So I’ll work as hard as possible, with other colleagues in the opposition, to pressure the government into acting on all of the recommendations arising from this public inquiry. And I’ll do what I can to make sure the view of Bristol’s residents are raised in Parliament.