Recent structural survey - findings
The long-term future of three high-rise blocks of flats in Ayr is set to be discussed over the coming months as Councillors and tenants consider the findings from a recent structural survey.
The survey works were undertaken at the three thirteen-storey high flats at Riverside Place in Ayr, which provide 234 homes at the heart of the South Ayrshire town.
The survey was commissioned to provide an accurate and up-to-date picture of the overall structural condition of the buildings and help inform any future decisions regarding longer-term plans and investment for the blocks.
The survey findings confirm there are no significant structural issues with the properties – which are almost 50 years old – but the cladding system has reached the end of its design life and needs replaced.
The Steni cladding panels – and the rockwool insulation immediately behind them – were the subject of an independent inspection last year following the Grenfell Tower fire in London.
The materials were confirmed to be non-combustible and in line with the building regulations and fire standards in place in 1992, when the buildings were refurbished and the cladding installed.
The recent full structural survey involved a more invasive approach, including the removal of the cladding and the insulation, as well as works to 'core' into parts of the walls and other parts of the structure.
The works not only confirmed last year's findings regarding the cladding and insulation, but gave a much clearer picture of the existing external fabric of the buildings. This included the identification of findings the Council was previously unaware of.
These include timber window sections and panels which appear to date from the original 1969 structure of the building, as well as cavities exposed by the 1992 installation of the railing for the cladding.
In consultation with the tenants at the flats, Councillors will now need to consider the impact of these findings on the long-term future of the buildings, given the amount of work, disruption and investment that could be required to bring them up to modern standards.
Councillor Philip Saxton, South Ayrshire Council's Portfolio Holder for Housing and Customer Services, said: "We've contacted every tenant at Riverside Place today to bring them up to speed regarding these latest findings and to reassure them about what this means in the first instance.
"First and foremost, we can take comfort in the knowledge that the risk of major fire development and spread remains minimal as the main structure of the buildings, the cladding panels and the major insulation layers are non-combustible.
"And, importantly, it doesn't change how the Council, or our colleagues at the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, will manage fire safety within the buildings.
"However, I know tenants will have some concerns regarding the materials that have been found, which is perfectly understandable.
"What we have to remember is that these materials have been in place for some 25-50 years and while there have been several fires within the buildings since the 1992 re-cladding – including three in the last year – none have taken hold within the fabric of the buildings.
"We also undertake annual fire risk assessments, which continue to recognise the good fire protection we have in place and our sprinkler system – which is checked twice a year – has been acknowledged by fire safety consultants as an "excellent addition" to our safety measures. Over and above this, we're progressing planned improvement works to further enhance fire safety measures, which were agreed in conjunction with our tenants who remain our priority at all times.
"At such an early stage, we're not in a position to answer the big question, which is what this means for the long-term future of the buildings. Our focus will be on working with tenants to consider this in much more detail and ensure they are involved and consulted every step of the way."
Joe Lafferty, Chair of the River Ayr Tenants Association, said: "Our Tenants Association is pleased to see the Council – once again – being proactive and quick off the mark to keep tenants informed of the findings from this latest survey.
"We're encouraged to hear the positive feedback on the overall structural condition and longevity of the high-rise flats and look forward to continuing discussions with the Council regarding any further improvement works or alterations that may be required in the immediate future.
"There's obviously a much wider discussion to come about the longer-term future and investment in the buildings and I welcome the confirmation that the association and the tenants will be fully involved in this."