Hundreds of Royal Navy sailors in Portsmouth are housed in blocks with flammable cladding

HUNDREDS of Royal Navy sailors in Portsmouth are living in buildings with flammable cladding, new data has revealed.

Friday, 5th November 2021, 4:55 am
Pictured: Image shows Able Seaman Connor Berry in the en-suite cabins in the junior rates accommodation, Falklands Block at HMS Nelson, HMNB Portsmouth, when it opened in February 2015. Picture: LA(Phot) Dan Rosenbaum

About 200 personnel, housed in two blocks at HMS Nelson, are in accommodation covered by Grenfell-style cladding.

The news came as the Ministry of Defence (MoD) confirmed that a total of 27 blocks, housing 3,396 military personnel at five bases in the UK in sites which are either fully or partially clad in flammable material.

However, defence minister Jeremy Quin admitted in a recent parliamentary response that the MoD had first been made aware of the cladding problem at HMS Nelson in July 2019.

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It’s understood one of the sites affected are the Vanguard and Nile blocks.

The MoD is now facing calls from the head of Portsmouth City Council, Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, to take immediate action to ‘protect the lives of service personnel’.

He said: ‘I’m sure the MoD knows that this is a significant problem but they are going to have to take action.

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‘Protecting the lives of service personnel is really important not just when they are on active service but when they are at home in Royal Navy accommodation.

‘The council has removed flammable cladding from council tower blocks because we needed to protect the lives of council tenants. Highbury College has removed cladding from its building to protect their students. It is right the Royal Navy does the same to protect the lives of serving personnel.’

One of the area’s most affected included the home of the UK’s nuclear deterrent, where almost 2,500 military personnel are housed in high-rise buildings with flammable cladding.

HMNB Clyde, also known as Faslane, has 22 of the 27 high-rise accommodation blocks on UK military bases fitted with the potentially dangerous building coverings.

The MoD has previously acknowledged remedial work to remove the cladding has begun on just one of the blocks.

SNP MP Brendan O’Hara warned there could be ‘devastating consequences’ for personnel at the base, which is home to the submarine service.

Mr O’Hara, whose Argyll and Bute constituency includes the base, said he was ‘astonished to hear the MoD, having known that the safety of thousands of naval personnel could be under threat due to living in accommodation with highly combustible cladding, has not taken action to have it removed immediately’.

In a letter sent to Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, Mr O’Hara said it is his understanding that new blocks containing the cladding may have continued to be built after the Grenfell Tower disaster.

He said: ‘The Grenfell Tower tragedy took place in June 2017, yet it is my understanding that new blocks containing this potentially dangerous cladding may have continued to be erected at the Faslane site beyond 2017.

‘I would welcome the reasons for this and for further information on whether buildings that continue to be erected as part of the expansion works are still being clad with these panels.

‘Defence personnel and civilians working at the base deserve to be kept as safe as possible and I hope you will take steps to ensure this cladding is removed as a matter of urgency.’

Other bases affected include London’s Hyde Park Barracks, Royal Centre for Defence Medicine in Birmingham and HMS Drake in Devonport with 370 personnel living in a block with flammable cladding.

A navy spokesman said: ‘The health and safety of our personnel is our highest priority and staff working at Clyde naval base are supported by a dedicated 24-hour fire service of professional crews on site.

‘Buildings on the naval base are occupied in compliance with a full fire risk assessment.’

Defence minister Jeremy Quin added the MoD ‘is carrying out remedial work or investigating remedial options’ on the 27 high-rises.

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