Re-cladding of Evenlode and Windrush tower blocks
Decision Maker: City Executive Board (became Cabinet on 13 May 2019), Council
Decision status: Information Only
Is Key decision?: Yes
Is subject to call in?: Yes
For the Board to consider options to replace the rain-screen cladding on the Evenlode and Windrush tower blocks following notification from the Department of Communities and Local Government that the cladding system used on the tower blocks failed the latest large-scale system test.
The Head of Housing Services submitted a report which requested additional budget approval in order to replace the rain screen cladding to Windrush and Evenlode towers.
Councillor Rowley, Board Member for Housing, spoke to the report. He said that Oxford was fortunate compared with some other authorities in only having to replace part of the cladding. The Oxfordshire Fire Service (OFS) had inspected all of the City’s tower blocks and confirmed that residents were safe in their homes, not least because of the total package of fire protection already in place (eg sprinklers, encasement of internal cabling etc). This robust approach was a consequence of having already implemented recommendations from coroners’ reports and elsewhere in the aftermath of previous tower block fires in the UK. Despite this assurance it was prudent to replace the cladding as set out in the report. As well as the self-evident desirability of doing what was the best for residents, there was an ambition to give the tower blocks another 30 years of life and this work would help future proof them against possible future changes in government requirements.
Turning to the points raised by Councillor Landell-Mills, he was optimistic that the £1m sought would be sufficient for the purpose. In speaking to residents, one issue to emerge was the desirability of proceeding with this work as swiftly as possible; hence recommendation 2. In relation to timescale it was not possible, at this point, to be specific given the number of other councils commissioning similar work. Having said that Oxford was in a better position than some as we still have contractors on site.
The Head of Housing and Property confirmed that while the government had announced a review of the relevant regulations, the likelihood of a requirement for further changes was considered, at the moment, to be low.
The Acting Head of Law and Governance noted, for the avoidance of doubt, that recommendation 2 did not seek to waive the planning application process but merely that it be dealt with as a delegated matter.
Councillor Tanner reminded the meeting of the Government’s initial commitment to fund the costs of such work. The Government had, however, since made it clear that local authorities were expected to cover their own costs. He therefore proposed an additional recommendation:
“The Council should continue to seek full reimbursement of the costs associated with the re-cladding of buildings from Government, as had originally been promised.”
The City Executive Board resolved to:
1. Ask Council for additional budget provision of £1m for the replacement of rain screen cladding to Windrush and Evenlode towers;
2. Recommend to Council to waive (but only to the extent described below) the relevant provisions in para 5.3 of the Constitution which require large applications, Council applications and significant amendments to a grant of planning permission to be determined by an area planning committee and instead delegate to the Head of Planning and Regulatory Services the authority to determine any applications made as a result of changes required by new building regulations and/or government guidance relating to tower block design or build;
3. Recommend to Council that it should continue to seek full reimbursement of the costs associated with the re-cladding of buildings from Government, as had originally been promised; and
4. Delegate to the Chief Executive in consultation with the Council’s Section 151 Officer (Head of Financial Services) the decision to accept a firm price as a variation to the current contract.
Report author: Stephen Clarke
Publication date: 16/08/2017
Date of decision: 15/08/2017
Decided at meeting: 15/08/2017 - City Executive Board (became Cabinet on 13 May 2019)
Effective from: 19/08/2017