New plans for Devonport Towers have highest fire safety rating

Plymouth Community Homes (PCH) this week submitted plans for a new non-combustible external wall covering for the Mount Wise Towers in Devonport which will provide the highest levels of fire safety for the blocks.

The plans also include a new roof design and a new fresh look for the three high profile Towers, which are home to around 300 people in Plymouth.

The works are needed to remove the current cladding on the Towers which failed Government fire safety tests following the Grenfell Tower fire last year.

PCH has opted to remove the existing ACM (aluminium composite material) rain-screen cladding panels and replace them with EWI (external wall insulation) after assessing the different possibilities with construction experts and Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service to determine the safest and best option for the blocks.

John Clark, Chief Executive for PCH, said: “We’ve taken advice from construction and fire safety experts and made our decision based on wanting the highest fire safety standards. That’s why we’ve chosen EWI – it greatly reduces the risk of fire as the materials are non-combustible and there are no air gaps so fires can’t spread. It also improves energy efficiency by better insulating the blocks, which will be an added benefit to the people living in them, as well as looking bright and modern.” 

The planning application was submitted to Plymouth City Council this week by Bailey Partnership, the company acting on behalf of PCH, and included CGI drawings of the new-look Towers (pictured). PCH shared possible designs and colours with the residents at an event on Tuesday 26 June and the majority voted for updating the Towers with a new modern design whilst keeping the red, blue and green theme for the blocks.

The fresh new-look does not stop with the walls of the Towers - PCH will be replacing the pitched roofs on the blocks with new flat roofs, a return to the original design, to enable the installation of a cradle to support the future maintenance of the building.

The complete works are expected to cost in the order of £13.5M depending on material and labour costs, and their availability. PCH is in the process of applying for Government funding for the removal and replacement elements of the works programme.

It is estimated that all works on the Towers will take at least a year in total to complete, once through planning. The initial construction stage will involve preparing the ground and then erecting the scaffolding, which in itself will take approximately four months. This part of the programme is hoped to begin in spring 2019, meaning the removal of cladding will begin in the summer of that year and target completion for all works will be spring/summer of 2020.

Mr Clark continued: “It’s great that we’ve now submitted planning – it’s a major milestone of a complicated and difficult process that has required absolute accuracy. Whilst this has been ongoing we’ve carried out extensive internal works to the Towers to ensure our residents’ safety. We’re installing sprinklers in every flat and communal area, which is set to be completed this winter, we’ve got 1-hour fire doors, fire protection to stairwells, plus smoke and heat detectors throughout. The Towers are the safest they’ve ever been.

“I’d like to thank our residents for their patience and co-operation in working with us to find the best solution for the Towers. A special thanks to the Fire Service, Plymouth City Council, local councillors and the city’s MPs who have supported our work on the Towers locally and with central Government.”

Copies of the plans for the Towers can be found at www.plymouth.gov.uk