NEWS
07/01/2019 23:51 GMT | Updated 08/01/2019 12:38 GMT

Exclusive: Thousands Of Fire Doors That Failed At Grenfell Still Used Across The Country

Data obtained by HuffPost UK reveals at least 25,000 faulty fire doors have been installed in public housing.

Thousands of fire doors identical to those blamed for helping spread the blaze at Grenfell Tower are still being used in public housing across the UK, HuffPost UK can reveal.

Freedom of Information requests sent to 123 local authorities have found that at least 25,000 doors installed in social housing are among the five types that failed testing carried out following the 2017 tragedy in west London.

A public inquiry into the disaster stated that poorly performing Manse Mastador products contributed to the disaster that killed 72 people. Responses from local councils reveal that the vast majority of the failed doors still in use match those used at Grenfell.

The data reveals a portrait of confusion and chaos at a local level, with councils claiming they have yet to act because of a lack of alternatives – and uncertainty over how to tackle the problem.

Some councils, including Islington, Barking and Dagenham and Manchester councils say they are waiting for explicit government guidance on the issue.

Kensington and Chelsea Council, the borough that includes Grenfell, is among the authorities still using Manse Mastador doors. The local MP, Emma Dent Coad, warned that another disaster is “in the post” and that “warm words won’t save lives”.

Communities Secretary James Brokenshire said his department took “swift and decisive action to investigate the fire doors industry”, and is working with local authorities to “make sure products being used meet the appropriate standard”.

The 25,000 figure is likely to be significantly higher since many authorities who replied admitted they do not hold records on the type of fire doors they have fitted in public housing.

A number of authorities have also handed management of their property portfolio to a separate company and refused to answer.

Those who did respond made clear some doors are yet to be replaced because of uncertainty about the scale of the problems with “composite” doors – made with glass-reinforced plastic, rather than timber-based – which are the most popular type used in public housing.

Some existing door replacement schemes have also been postponed, councils say, as a result of a moratorium on the sale of composite doors that has only just been lifted.

Will the government continue to hide behind process and make woolly aspirational statements – or tackle this head on?Labour MP Emma Dent Coad
ASSOCIATED PRESS

In July, the government announced fire doors made by five different companies had been taken off the market following tests on the same doors used at Grenfell.

The tests found doors made by Manse Masterdor only withstood fire for 15 minutes – just half the amount of time they were supposed to.

Issues were subsequently identified with similar doors that were all expected to provide 30 minutes of protection to residents. These were produced by Masterdor Limited, the successor business to Manse Masterdor; Specialist Building Products Limited, trading as Permadoor; Solar Windows Limited; and Birtley Group Limited, trading as Bowater by Birtley.

The 30-minute threshold is significant, as this the minimum time required in building regulations.

When pressed by HuffPost UK at the time, the ministry refused to detail how many doors of these type were being used in public housing across the country.

HuffPost UK therefore asked every major housing authority about how they had responded to the department, which urged them to check that existing building regulations guidance on new fire door installations is followed

In August, the Ministry again issued a note to councils urging them to “satisfy themselves that products being used on a project under their supervision meet the appropriate standards”.

But council bosses who have spoken to HuffPost UK say there is “frustration” over a lack of data sharing, with many saying they were sold faulty doors in the first place, and that they may now have to foot a hefty bill for the replacements.

One local council executive explained: “Local authorities have paid for a certain quality and haven’t got it.

“If a door is failing by one minute – so it has 29 minutes in it – you’d still replace that door, but you’d probably not prioritise it. If it has 5 minutes you’d move it up the work programme. 

“Councils thought they were getting a product that provided 30 minutes protection. So we need that data as landlords.”

Councils also face a “considerable cost” in replacing the doors, with one boss estimating that a single authority could have as many as 10,000 defective doors. This was not confirmed by FOI responses to HuffPost UK.

“Most are probably hoping they will recoup that cost, with the expectation that if the industry does fall apart the ministry might have to step in,” they said. 

The delay in replacement also stems from a lack of trust among authorities in the products they could buy.

“Up until this point you couldn’t replace a door with another composite door because there are very few manufacturers that can provide test data, and you could’t trust previous batches,” the council source said.

They added that a lot of councils have also stopped doors replacements that were already planned: “There was a systemic problem with these kinds of door, and we couldn’t quantify the extent of what that problem was. We’re coming out if that but we’re still in it largely.”

Labour MP Dent Coad said: “It is simply beyond belief that after 18 months the government has still refused to give any kind of clarity over the actions which councils and housing associations need to take to make homes safe.

“Will they continue to hide behind process and make woolly aspirational statements – or tackle this head on? As one of the survivors put it ‘Grenfell 2 is in the post’. This terrifies me.

“Time for the Secretary of State James Brokenshire to show he cares by action, now. Warm words won’t save lives.” 

Wera Hobhouse, Liberal Democrat housing spokesperson, said: “It is vital that fire safety work is carried out urgently so that a tragedy such as Grenfell never happens again.

“Liberal Democrats demand better. People need to feel safe in their homes and the Government must ensure that all remedial work is carried out without delay in both the public and the private sector. Funds can be recovered at a later date, but residents’ safety must be put first.

“The Government must move to fully implement the recommendations of the Hackett review. There is a systemic lack of accountability and enforcement within building regulations and this is something that must be properly tackled if we are to witness fundamental change.”

Brokenshire said that “nothing is more important than making sure people are safe in their homes”.

He continued: “We took swift and decisive action to investigate the fire doors industry, and are working with local authorities to make sure products being used meet the appropriate standard.

“All local authorities and housing associations have been offered the opportunity to confidentially share tests results, and can attend fortnightly update meetings on the progress being made.”

The Association of Composite Door Manufacturers has said the moratorium on sales has resulted in a “very heavy” cost to the industry in terms of “jobs and revenue”. It is also compiling a database of all fire door products tested by its members, in addition to providing technical advice.

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‘The UK supply of fire doors is in a state of flux ...’

Here are the responses from some of the councils with the largest number of poorly performing fire doors installed

Islington - 2,448 Masterdor and 234 Manse Masterdor

A spokesman said: “Our plans for the assessment and replacement (where necessary) of these doors, including those made by Manse Masterdor and Masterdor Ltd, are well under way but they will necessarily be shaped by any guidance and advice formulated by central Government once they’ve finished testing fire doors.”

Brighton and Hove - 2,254 Masterdor

The council said: “Our highest priority is the safety of our residents. The advice is that the risk to public safety remains low, as a building’s fire protection uses a range of measures and a failure of one, such as fire doors, should not significantly change the overall safety.

“We’ve carried out additional fire risk assessments on our high-rise buildings where these doors are fitted. We’ve looked specifically at the potential impacts of the doors failing within 30 minutes and the assessments confirm that the risk remains low.

“We are continuing to work with the East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service and are awaiting further instruction and information from the government.”

Hounslow - 1,569 Permadoor

Councillor Lily Bath, cabinet member for housing and social inclusion, said: “We are currently reviewing our programme for replacing flat front entrance doors.

“We do not expect to complete our review until the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) have completed its own investigation into fire safety doors, which it is carrying out in close consultation with the manufacturers and suppliers of fire doors.” 

Redbridge - 1,204 Manse Masterdor and 204 Permadoor 

A council spokesperson said: “We’ve undertaken a rigorous exercise to identify the doors that need changing and are now embarking on a replacement programme, which will be completed by June 2019.”  

Sutton - Bowater 1,300 and Masterdor 35 doors. Solar Windows unknown

It said: “The Solar Windows doors mentioned are currently being replaced as part of the door replacement programme which was ongoing before MHCLG’s announcement.

“Any-non compliant doors from other suppliers will be replaced through future programmes of work, on a risk based basis.”

Greenwich - 657 Permadoor and 435 Manse Masterdor

A spokesman said: “We continue to work closely with the MHCLG and London Councils as part of developing our response and future strategy, and taking full account of MHCLG Advice Note 17, published 28 August 2018.

“Over the summer, manufacturers of composite (GRP) fire rated door-sets voluntarily withdrew their products from sale, leaving no suitable immediate alternative for the FD30 doors previously identified as needing replacement.

“We have therefore been looking at possible alternatives that meet the requirements of Advice Note 17, and will start replacing these doors in the coming months, subject to suppliers being able to meet our capacity needs along with the increased capacity needs across the housing sector.”

Kensington and Chelsea - 931 Manse Masterdor

In its FOI response, it said: “The UK supply of fire doors is in a state of flux and doors of the right standard will not be readily available until the UK market has correctly certified products, appropriate for use in specific locations.

“As a result of the nation-wide uncertainty on the issue, RBKC is at this stage unable to commence a programme of replacement.”

Did not respond to request for further comment.

Thurrock - 682 Permadoor and 56 Masterdor

The models made by manufacturers fitted in its properties have not failed testing, it said, and do not need to be replaced.

It said: “Thurrock Council are liaising with the door manufacturers in relation to the specific elements of the issues identified.”

Ealing - 728 Manse Masterdor 

A council spokesperson said: “We have a comprehensive works programme to continually ensure the safety of our residents. Of the 728 doors in question, 480 are of a different type to the ones identified by the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government.

“The remaining are all located in low rise blocks, many with open access balconies, easily accessed by the fire brigade in the event of an emergency.

“Almost all of these doors will be replaced over the next two years and all have been fitted in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions and the highest safety standards.”

Wiltshire - 513 Permadoor and 184 Masterdor

It said in the FOI response: “We are currently checking the specification and model of doors fitted against information released by Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government before taking remedial steps.”

Did not respond to request for further comment.

Camden - 657 Manse Masterdor

A Camden Council spokesman said: “Camden Council is implementing a new standard of resident safety and this includes carrying out enhanced fire risk assessments in our all our council homes.

“We are replacing any doors that do not meet the safety standard we would expect, however, we stand ready to further upgrade doors where required as government guidance and regulations change.”

Tower Hamlets - 594 Manse Masterdor and 38 Masterdor

It said: “The location of the doors installed do not require immediate removal.”

Did not respond to request for further comment.

Hillingdon - 600 Bowater

A spokesman said: “The council started its fire door replacement programme before the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower. The programme was completed in January 2018 in sheltered housing and high rise blocks.

“Our fire door supplier is Gerda Security Products. They have full third-party UKAS certification. All doors are tested as ‘complete installed door-set assemblies.’ Very few door manufacturers provide this level of completed test evidence.

“Gerda doors have also been tested by Government and are deemed fit for purpose.”

Medway - 553 Permadoor

Indicated it was waiting for confirmation from the government on whether action is required on certain doors.

Enfield - 517 Manse Masterdor

In its FOI response it said it is “due to start replacing the doors” which open onto communal areas and “where doors open directly onto the street in blocks or street properties, these will be reviewed as part of our fire risk assessments”.

Did not respond to request for further comment.

Barking and Dagenham - 408 Manse Masterdor

It said: “We are working with London Councils Fire Safety Group to get further clarity and guidance on the issue before we move forward with the replacement of the affected fire doors.”

Manchester - 407 Manse Masterdor

A spokesperson said: “Manchester City Council is continuing to work all relevant agencies – including MHCLG and Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue – to ensure we react quickly to best practice advice.

“We are still awaiting information about recent fire door tests and as further advice is made available we will act accordingly.”

Hammersmith and Fulham - 332 Manse Masterdor and 1 Masterdor

It said the doors are fitted to “low risk” buildings and “having reviewed the Fire Risk Assessments, we will monitor the position”.

Did not respond to request for further comment.

Newham - 180 Permadoor and 152 Masterdor

It said: “The programme of door replacement is currently being reviewed.”

Did not respond to request for further comment.

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