PICTURED: Residents react as work starts to remove cladding from two Somers Town high rises due to fire risks after Grenfell Tower blaze

Cladding being taken off Horatia House in Somers Town Portsmouth
Cladding being taken off Horatia House in Somers Town Portsmouth
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WORK has started to removed cladding from two Portsmouth high rises after tests found that it was a fire risk.

Portsmouth City Council has confirmed that cladding on Horatia House and Leamington House in Somers Town is being removed to ensure the ‘highest safety standards’ are in place.

Carla Saunders of Leamington House

Carla Saunders of Leamington House

Council staff will be present in the two buildings 24 hours a day, for as long as necessary while the cladding is removed from the two buildings.

No other blocks are affected.

It comes following the devastating Grenfell Tower in Kensington, London which is presumed to have claimed the lives of 79 people as 151 homes were destroyed.

Councillor Luke Stubbs, deputy leader of Portsmouth City Council said: ‘Like all councils, we have been working with government and fire service to review our buildings.

Alex Finney and her daughter Tallulah of Leamington House

Alex Finney and her daughter Tallulah of Leamington House

‘As a precaution we submitted some cladding for testing and the results that came back said the cladding on Horatia House and Leamington House was a fire risk. As a result we are removing the cladding from those buildings.

‘Protection of Portsmouth residents is our number one priority and we will not compromise on safety standards.’

He said that at both Horatia and Leamington House there were different safety features than at Grenfell Tower, including two staircases, no gas supply, cladding just front and back with a gap in the middle.

He said: ‘If you put all that together it’s safer.’

Horatia House in Somers Town

Horatia House in Somers Town

Cllr Stubbs added: ‘There’s a potential issue with the buildings.

‘We are therefore as a precaution removing the cladding.

‘We’ve put in both buildings a 24-hour fire marshal.’

He said it was unclear how long it would take or the total cost.

Leamington House in Somers Town

Leamington House in Somers Town

One of the lifting platforms has already stopped working, with contractors using an already on-site replacement.

Cllr Stubbs said all 13 of the council’s high-rise properties over 10 storeys tall had been looked at but none others had failed testing.

He said: This is a developing situation, we’ve obviously got to speak to contractors.’

Cllr Stubbs added that of the 13 tower blocks that the council owns, occasional instances of fires within flats have occurred in the past few years but that in every instance, the fire has been contained within the property where the fire commenced.

Carla Saunders, 40, moved into Leamington House yesterday and said she was glad to see the cladding removed. The mother-of-six said: ‘I’m quite happy – I’ve only just moved in.

‘I’ve got six kids and live on the 12th floor, to see it’s coming off I’m quite happy.

‘To see what happened in London, it was devastating.

‘If it happened here it we would have been in the same situation as London and the higher you are the less chance you’ve got of coming out.’

Alex Finney, 27, decided to return to her home on the 16th floor at Leamington House today after living with her mum since the fire in London.

Speaking as she went into the block for the first time in weeks with her daughter Tallulah, seven, Alex said: ‘It’s a good thing that they’ve actually thought about us for for a change, not just left it.

‘When I saw the fire I felt awful, I’ve stayed at my mum’s ever since. It’s the thought of it happening.

‘I’m on the 16th floor with my daughter.

‘I saw on Facebook about two people (fire marshals) going to be in here 24 hours a day.

‘That does make me feel much better. I still feel a bit uneasy about it.’

A full assessment of the buildings has been conducted with Hampshire Fire & Rescue Service and Cllr Stubbs said the buildings are safe to stay in with all of the existing safety measures still in place.

Letters are being delivered to residents of Horatia House and Leamington House explaining the precautions being taken.

Anyone with concerns about the situation can call (023) 9282 4244 or visit the Somerstown Hub community information point where the local area housing office will be open until 8pm this evening and from 8am until 5pm tomorrow and on Sunday.

The council will be holding a special fire safety information event on Tuesday, June 27 at The New Theatre Royal in Guildhall Walk.

From 6.30pm to 7.30pm, residents will be able to hear from the council and the fire service to discuss any concerns.