Bolton Cube didn’t have fire-resistant cladding because it was 16cm too short
Firefighters have described it as ‘sickening’
The student tower block destroyed by a fire in Bolton didn’t have fire-resistant cladding because it was 16 cm too short, it has been revealed.
The Cube, a six-storey block of flats home to over 200 students in Bolton that burnt down earlier this month, did not have fire-resistant cladding because it measured as 17.84m tall – just 16cm under the required height.
The development emerged today, after investigations into the cladding of the building have been ongoing since the blaze, which injured two people and forced all inhabitants to evacuate.
The rule only allows fire-resistant cladding to be put on the outside of buildings that are taller than 18m.
The Cube is not made out of aluminium composite material (ACM), the cladding on the Grenfell tower block which caught fire in 2017 and killed 72 people. According to firefighters, the cladding used high-pressure laminate (HPL) instead.
However, both types of cladding are combustible and only have to be removed from high-rise residential buildings (HRRBs) that are 18m and taller, the rules state.
As of December last year, ACM and HPL cladding have been banned on new buildings.
The rule has been criticised by the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), who say the required height of buildings for fire-resistant cladding should be lowered to 11m, so that cherry pickers used by firefighters today can reach them.
Matt Wrack, the general secretary of the FBU said in a statement: “There is no sensible reason why we should only care about the safety of those in buildings over 18m, nor why we should only try to remove one particular kind of flammable cladding.
"This Tory Government have sat on their hands on fire safety for too long. They’ve done the minimum.
"This Government has not grasped and does not want to grasp the scale of the fire safety crisis in the UK it’s sickening."
He added the height restriction is based off wheeled escape ladders that "have not been in widespread use since the late 1980s."
This week, the Fire Protection Association demanded that all combustible materials, including ACM and HPL should be stripped from all buildings and banned from any new ones; not only high rises.
The managing director of the Fire Protection Association, Jonathon O’Neill said: "The fires at the Bolton student block, Worcester Park in London and the Beechmere care village in Cheshire, prove we cannot be housing people in buildings made from combustible materials.
"This issue needs to be addressed urgently, it simply cannot wait. We urge this issue to be a priority for the new Government."
Witnesses from the Bolton fire said flames "crawled up the cladding like it was nothing", starting on the fourth floor and spreading to the sixth floor.
One student told The Manchester Tab: "I saw people running and smoke on our floor coming up from the second floor where it started so I just shouted at all my flatmates that it was real and we all just ran."
The blaze required more than 40 fire crews to put it out.
Featured image: SWNS