Tower block cladding plans shelved following Grenfell disaster
PLANS to clad five tower blocks in north Belfast have been shelved following the Grenfell disaster in south London.
While the Housing Executive has no plans to remove a PVC skin already covering two towers in the New Lodge area, similar work at other properties across the north is now under review.
New Lodge resident Dan McCullough, who has lived in Cuchulainn House for more than 20 years, said the tragedy at Grenfell Tower had left residents terrified.
The executive's 'Tower Block Strategy' is being reviewed following the blaze that destroyed the North Kensington tower in June.
The fire, which claimed dozens of lives, is believed to have been greatly accelerated by cladding placed on the outside of the building,
Following the disaster the British government said 14 residential high-rise buildings in nine local authority areas across England were found to have cladding systems that raised safety concerns.
The Housing Executive said it tested the cladding used on all its properties in Northern Ireland and it met the "most robust method of compliance with building regulations".
It also said it was "reviewing all fire safety measures" in tower blocks to establish if there is a need for sprinkler systems.
Its Tower Block Strategy, aimed at upgrading all executive-owned tower blocks in a regeneration programme that included cladding the remaining flats in north Belfast, was published in September 2015.
A spokesman said: "The cladding works on Cuchulainn House and Eithne House in New Lodge - and two other blocks in east Belfast - were delivered under a specific, time-bound capital funding programme, the Interim Investment Priorities Programme.
"The decision as to whether to extend a cladding programme to our other 29 blocks will be determined by our Tower Block Strategy, which is currently under review, following the Grenfell Tower fire."
Seán Brady of Participation and the Practice of Rights, which has been representing residents of the New Lodge, accused the Housing Executive of "hiding behind regulations to justify poor housing provision".
"It should not have taken a tragedy like Grenfell to prompt this review," he said.
"Whilst the tenants of two blocks now live with uncertainty about safety, the residents of the other five are left to rot facing no investment in the current stock and no plans to build new homes.
"The housing crisis, including poor conditions and homelessness, cannot be solved with PVC face lifts."