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New High Rise building team created

25 January 2023

A new high rise buildings team will be embarking on a programme of inspections this Spring as part of a pro-active approach to improve safety and reduce risk in high rise properties.

The Council has been working with Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service to create the team to co-ordinate the work needed to be done to meet requirements set by Government, who want more progress, nationally, in respect of cladding remediation.

In Plymouth there is already a strong professional working partnership with Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service on a joint service approach to these buildings.

The two organisations have worked closely for a number of years since the Grenfell tragedy in 2017. They initially concentrated on buildings with the same cladding – in Plymouth’s case, the Devonport Towers, which had extensive remedial work carried out.

A Devon and Somerset Fire Service inspection in 2021 highlighted issues in the Latitude 52 building in Devonport, with both organisations continuing to work with the owners of the building to address.

The new High Rise Buildings Team will comprise a team manager, fire safety officer, building control officer and technical officer and will be turning their attention to higher risk high rises in the city.

The definition of a higher risk building under the Building Safety Act 2022 is one that is at least 18 metres in height or has at least seven storeys and contains at least two residential units.

Plymouth has 73 buildings that are 18 metres or higher, with around 56 of these believed to meet the criteria of the ‘higher-risk building’.

All 73 buildings will need to be reviewed to ensure that any building meeting this description is correctly identified through a ‘higher-risk building inspection programme’.

Councillor Rebecca Smith, Cabinet Member for Strategic Planning, Homes and Communities said: “People assume Plymouth does not have many high rise buildings but we have more than most cities in the South West. We have been working with Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service over a number of years to look at the issue of safety in high rises, this team will help progress matters and is a great step forwards.

“The team need to work to a strong clear policy which sets out their priorities for work and the legislative tools they will use to ensure our taller buildings are as safe as they can be.

“This has been shared with colleagues across the Council, Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service, and national colleagues at the Local Government Association. All have responded positively and the LGA have asked for it to be shared with other councils.”

A decision is being signed this week which sets out the policy for the team as well as the procedures it will follow to support a fair and consistent approach, as well as set reasonable expectations of what to expect for service users.