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20 September 2017, 18:26
Dozens of high rise developments in Glasgow have cladding similar to that used on Grenfell Tower, it has been confirmed.
A senior official from the local authority told a Holyrood committee combustible cladding had been found on private flats - but added the council had not informed the owners of the buildings or the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.
Raymond Barlow, the assistant head of planning and building standards at Glasgow City Council, said it had been waiting to hear from the Scottish Government on the issue.
But Housing Minister Kevin Stewart said he was waiting to hear back from the local authority, claiming it had provided "insufficient" information.
The council reported the discovery of the combustible cladding to a ministerial working group on building and fire safety set up by the Scottish Government in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower blaze.
Mr Barlow confirmed to MSPs on the Scottish Parliament's Local Government and Communities Committee this had been found on some private properties over 18 metres in height, but said: "It's just not public information yet."
Committee convener Bob Doris told him: "It's now public information because you are telling us."
Liberal Democrat justice spokesman Liam McArthur demanded a statement from ministers in light of that "astonishing revelation".
The Lib Dem MSP said: "People in Glasgow will be absolutely gobsmacked that information about potential fire risks have been shared with ministers but not with the fire service or the public."
He added: "SNP ministers must come to Parliament immediately and provide a statement on what they know, why this was not shared with the fire service and how many other parts of the country might be affected.
"We also need to know what they plan to do to keep the public safe."
But Mr Stewart said: "The information presented to the ministerial working group on September 8 did not detail how many private high rise domestic properties may have ACM (aluminium composite material) or whether the material was combustible cladding of the same type as used on Grenfell.
"The overall detail of information was insufficient for the Chief Building Standards Officer, and therefore Glasgow City Council was asked to provide further information and we are waiting for them to provide clarification."
Mr Stewart also stated: "We would expect Glasgow City Council, as the body responsible for verification and enforcement of building standards, to inform building owners of their findings and ensuring that once additional checks have taken place if any unsafe material is found, it is removed."
Mr Barlow had refused to say how many private high rises in Glasgow had combustible cladding - but the council confirmed later 57 buildings have been found with "some element of ACM in their construction" while a "much smaller number" featured this as a "substantial part of their make up".
A council spokeswoman stressed: "However there is no suggestion that these buildings are a particular fire risk, all of them have fire systems in place and all of these buildings comply with the building regulations which were in force at the time they were constructed.
"It is important that people have all the information they need but it is also important that people do not panic. This is why we were content to have the ministerial working group consider what to do with this information.
"If we had had any fear that people in these properties were at any risk, we would have used our building control powers to shut the buildings and compel the owners to carry out remedial work."
Tory MSP Graham Simpson pressed Mr Barlow on why the owners of the properties had not been informed, demanding: "Don't you think Glasgow City Council has a responsibility to the citizens of Glasgow, rather than a ministerial working group, if you have discovered this information?"
The official replied: "Nationally we do and that is why I'm feeding it back through the ministerial working group, through the government, because it is a national issue."
He said the properties concerned had all been granted building consent prior to May 1, 2005, but added some of them would have been completed after that year.
The details were discovered after council staff searched through records, with Mr Barlow stressing: "We wish to make sure this information is controlled as well as possible so that persons understand the context of the information that they are given."
Mr Doris said afterwards: "It was deeply concerning to hear a Glasgow City Council official say combustible cladding has been found in private high rise homes.
"People who are currently living in private high rises and who listened to this today will of course be worried about their safety in their homes.
"We don't want this to cause undue alarm, as these buildings may well be safe, but people who live in these homes deserve answers.
"That's why we've asked Glasgow City Council and the Scottish Government to urgently provide us with more information on the extent of this issue and we will put these concerns to the minister when he appears next week."
Assistant Chief Officer David McGown, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service's director of prevention and protection, said: "We are a member of the Ministerial Working Group which has outlined that the information presented on September 8 did not detail how many private high rise domestic properties may have ACM or whether the material was combustible cladding of the same type as used on Grenfell.
"Glasgow City Council has been asked to provide further information and the Working Group awaits their clarification.
"The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service routinely carries out operational intelligence and reassurance visits at high rise premises for the purposes of checking facilities and arrangements for firefighting and firefighter safety.
"I would remind communities in Scotland that we are here to support them, most notably through our free Home Fire Safety Visits where firefighters will provide safety advice and guidance on what to do in the event of an emergency."