A plan to replace thousands of fire doors found to be defective in the aftermath of the Grenfell disaster has yet to materialise months after it was promised by the government.
Last month, HuffPost UK revealed at least 25,000 doors that had failed safety testing were installed in public housing across the UK. Thousands of the products are identical to those blamed for helping spread the blaze at Grenfell, and are still in use.
The government in July pledged the door industry would develop a programme to replace faulty models, but an ‘action plan’ has yet to emerge, HuffPost UK can reveal.
Labour blasted ministers for being “off the pace at every stage” since the disaster in 2017. The latest revelation comes amid concerns that flammable Grenfell-style cladding has also yet to be stripped from hundreds of high-rise buildings.
Representatives from the fire door industry say they are working “as quickly as possible” to develop a plan to remediate buildings fitted with faulty doors.
The industry has only lifted a self-imposed ban on production of a suspect type of fire door in November after ensuring they are “absolutely fit for purpose”.
Problems with fire doors were first identified by the Metropolitan Police in March last year during its investigation of the Grenfell towerblock, where 72 people were killed.
In total, products made by five different companies were taken off the market as tests found certain types of “composite” doors – made with glass-reinforced plastic, rather than timber-based – only withstood fire for 15 minutes, which was just half the amount of time they were supposed to last. The 30-minute threshold is significant, as this is the minimum time required in building regulation.
In July, the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government said it had “instructed major fire door suppliers to meet this week and agree a clear plan of action to tackle the failings which have been identified”.
Yet in response to a written parliamentary question last month, Housing Secretary James Brokenshire said it was “currently working with the Association of Composite Fire Door Manufacturers on a plan to ensure that doors are replaced where this is required”.
It remains unclear how long it will be before replacement work begins. Following the end of the moratorium, the industry is still trying to establish the full scale of the faults as part of a consultation with the government.
It is understood councils and housing associations will then be expected to carry out approved risk assessments of their properties, and suppliers will then work to replace the products.
A future challenge is likely to be who pays for the refits, with cash-strapped councils frustrated they were sold inadequate products in the first place and the industry fearing it could push some businesses to collapse.
The Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government said the door industry “must take responsibility for replacing their defective fire doors” and that it is “urgently working with them to give effect to their commitment as soon as possible”.
Andrew Fowlds, chair of the Association of Composite Door Manufacturers, ACDM, which represents a number of manufacturers of composite fire doors in the UK, told HuffPost UK: “From the outside looking in it may look like some organisations are dragging their heels, but on the inside everyone is working very hard to try to get this done as quickly as possible.
“Everyone in the industry wants to make sure the public is safe. The industry will make sure that’s the case.”
He explains delays have stemmed from fire testing facilities in the UK being overwhelmed following the Grenfell disaster and not enough sites being available.
John Healey, the shadow secretary of state for housing, said: “Ministers have been off the pace at every stage since the Grenfell Tower fire over 19 months ago.
“It beggars belief that the government still say they are ‘working on a plan’ to replace faulty fire doors despite this problem coming to light months ago.
“There is no way Tory ministers would accept this sort of delay in making their own homes safe. It’s not acceptable for other people’s homes either.”
An MHCLG spokesperson said: “Nothing is more important than making sure people are safe in their homes.
“As soon as the Metropolitan Police informed us about an issue with a fire door from Grenfell Tower we took swift and decisive action to investigate the fire doors industry by immediately notifying National Trading Standards and preventing the production and sale of any GRP composite fire doors with immediate effect and stopping any new doors entering the market.
“Whilst advice from our Expert Panel is that the risk to public safety remains low, our investigation into the fire door market continues and we are doing everything we can to ensure these products meet the highest possible safety standards, including gaining an industry commitment to remove all doors sold until it could be proved that it met the required 30-minute standard on both sides of the door.
“We have been clear that the door industry must take responsibility for replacing their defective fire doors and we are urgently working with them to give effect to their commitment as soon as possible.”