Cladding on Swansea apartment blocks being replaced for fire safety improvements

A tower block in Swansea will have its cladding replaced to improve fire safety if a planning application gets the green light.

Plans have been submitted to remove cladding covering 20% of Strand Court in Strand, Swansea city centre, as it is “no longer suitable for residential buildings over 18m [metres] in height”, according to owners Coastal Housing.

Balconies and High-Pressure Laminate [HPL] cladding panels over nine floors of the building are set to be replaced as part of “fire safety improvements,” planning documents show.

The smaller Strand Mews building next door will also have its HPL cladding removed and replaced as a precaution.

Strand Court and the smaller Strand Mews building will have cladding replaced
(Image: WalesOnline/Gayle Marsh)

The Welsh Government issued advice to building owners in 2019 which said: “HPL panels can have a wide range of fire performance.

“The fire classification of an HPL panel can vary depending on its thickness and whether or not it incorporates fire retardant chemicals,” urging building owners to know the fire performance of the HPL panels on their buildings.

HPL panels are a type of cladding made by layering sheets of wood or paper fibre with a resin and bonding them under heat and pressure.

The cost of replacing the cladding at Strand Court and Stand Mews will be met by the Welsh Government’s High-Rise Residential Buildings (HRRB) Capital Remediation Grant at no cost to leaseholders or their tenants.

Other residential blocks in Swansea have had issues with fire safety. People living in South Quay in Kings Road were landed with a £335,000 bill “out of the blue” to make their homes safe in November 2020.

There has been a similar long-running dispute at Wales’ tallest residential building, Meridian Tower, not far from South Quay in Swansea Marina.

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In 2019, the 265 people living in the tower and surrounding buildings were handed a £5 million bill for repairs. A group of leaseholders refused to pay and took legal action, resulting in a commitment by the original insurer that their bills would be covered.

Andrew Thomas, Head of Maintenance at Coastal Housing said: “Strand Court has High-Pressure Laminate (HPL) cladding to approximately 20% of the building. We are replacing this in line with changes to government guidance related to tall buildings, which states that HPL is no longer suitable for residential buildings above 18m in height.

“The cost of cladding replacement at Strand Court is being met by the Welsh Government High-Rise Residential Buildings (HRRB) Capital Remediation Grant and there will be no effect on residents’ rent or service charges. We have kept residents informed throughout the process and will be making every effort to keep disruption and inconvenience to a minimum whilst work is completed.

“Because of the close proximity of Strand Mews to the taller building at Strand Court, we have taken the decision to replace HPL cladding on this smaller building too, even though it’s below 18m. Again, there is cladding to approximately 20% of the building but in this instance, replacement costs will be met by Coastal.”

The planning application can be views on Swansea Council’s planning portal under reference: 2021/0852/PLD

WalesOnline – Swansea