HC Deb 10 May 1985 vol 78 cc528-9W
Mr. Heddle

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment when the report of the Building Research Establishment's investigation of Ronan Point and other Taylor Woodrow Anglian Buildings will be published.

Mr. Gow

The Building Research Establishment's report on the structure of Ronan Point and other Taylor Woodrow Anglian (TWA) buildings is being published today. The main findings of the BRE's investigation were announced in the answer which I gave to the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) on 19 February at columns409–10. The report contains detailed analyses which support those findings and I commend it to those responsible for managing and maintaining Taylor Woodrow Anglian buildings and to the consulting engineers and others who advise them.

Some of the conclusions in the BRE report apply not only to Taylor Woodrow Anglian buildings but have implications for large panel system buildings generally.

In the statement which I made on 23 October 1984 at columns 553–57 I advised that authorities should take urgent steps to prevent the use and storage of liquefied petroleum gas cylinders and other explosive materials in large panel system buildings of all type over six storeys in height which were not designed or strengthened to resist a standard static pressure of 34 KN/m2 (5 p.s.i.). I repeat this urgent advice to authorities which have not done so already to take steps to guard against the risk, even if it is remote, of these large panel buildings being seriously damaged by explosion, by preventing the use and storage in them of LPG.

The necessary steps include effective publicity about the danger of LPG and the readiness to take enforcement action when necessary. I appreciate that in some cases tenants face difficulties because existing heating systems are inefficient or expensive. In these cases one possibility local authorities should consider is to provide alternative, more economic forms of heating, combined where necessary with better insulation.

In my statement of 23 October 1984 I also referred to the risk of progressive collapse in certain large panel buildings of six or fewer storeys. Many such buildings do conform to the requirements of D17 of the building regulations, which require, inter alia, that the relevant parts of the structure should be capable of withstanding static pressure of 34KN/m2 (5 p.s.i). But where they do not and particularly where piped gas is installed or LPG is being used, I urge authorities to appraise the robustness of the buildings and their resistance to progressive collapse, as indicated in the BRE report.

Having appraised their large panel buildings authorities will need to consider carefully all of the steps which they should take, including management measures mentioned above (for example, the use and enforcement of tenancy agreements, to ensure that LPG is not used) as well as possible works such as the modification or replacement of heating systems or the alternative of strengthening buildings to the 34KN/m standard. Authorities will need to consider carefully the relative costs and benefits of the options open to them, while also keeping in mind the need for other expenditure on the maintenance and renovation of these buildings in the longer term. Though it will be for each authority to decide on the best course of action my Department will give whatever further advice it can.

The Department is writing today to those authorities which own large panel system flats and houses to bring these recommendations to their attention. Copies of the BRE report are being sent to each of them: a copy has been placed in the Library.