Sunday, 16 July 2017

Update on fire safety in Reading following Grenfell

Following the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower Green councillor Brenda McGonigle asked for an update on fire safety in Reading at a recent council committee. Response below:

In the last six months there have been two major fires in high rise blocks of flats in other areas - one in Shepherds Bush and most recently the tragic incident at Grenfell Tower, Kensington.  The Grenfell Tower investigation is underway, but it will be some time before we fully understand how the fire started or why it took hold in the way it did.

Reading Borough Council has three 14-storey blocks of flats in Coley and four eight-storey blocks in Granville Road, Southcote, and we are confident they meet high levels of fire safety standards.

Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Services has audited 90 per cent of the Council’s blocks of flats, including our high rise blocks, with communal areas and have not raised any significant issues.  Where fires have broken out inside flats, none of them have spread outside the flat.

Formal fire risk assessments are carried out in our high rise blocks every other year by the Council using a qualified fire risk assessor.  A block inspector regularly checks all blocks and housing officers are on site most days to ensure constant monitoring.  From this year every flat within the blocks will have their smoke alarm tested every year and tenants are encouraged to check them weekly.

There has been much public concern and comment about potential flaws in the cladding that was on Grenfell Tower.  The Council can confirm that none of Reading Borough Council’s blocks have cladding systems comparable to those in the blocks where these fires occurred nor are any of the Council’s homes clad with the material which was used in the exterior refurbishment of Grenfell Tower.

The Coley high rise flats have very few cavities between any external cladding panels and the main concrete construction but on the limited elevations where they do occur fire breaks are in place to stop the spread of fire. None of the other flatted blocks have cavities.

The Coley high rise flats have fire exits at both ends of the blocks and have a call-point alarm system in communal areas which can be heard throughout the building when activated.  The Granville Road flats each have two communal staircases accessed via external balconies.  All flats have their own alarms which sound internally.  Smoke seals and intumescent strips are fitted on communal doors and the front doors of flats in all of our blocks to protect tenants from fire and reduce the risk of fire inside a flat spreading outside.

Fire risk is taken very seriously and the Council operates a zero-tolerance policy regarding items left in communal areas by tenants, as this poses a fire risk.  The Council enforces this policy strictly.

Every block of flats also has a fire notice board with an evacuation plan and factsheet giving advice regarding what to do in the event of a fire.  Following the Grenfell Tower fire, the Council wrote to all tenants in our high rise flats to reassure them of the fire safety measures in place and to urge them to regularly check their flat’s alarms and provide guidance on how to reduce the risk of a fire occurring and what to do if a fire does occur.  If any resident had any health and safety concerns about electrical appliances inside their flat, the Council also offered to visit and carry out testing to check that there were no issues. A fire safety briefing was also provided to all Councillors.

The Council takes fire safety extremely seriously and reviews measures as new information arises or updated guidance is issued.  This includes learning from major incidents in other areas, including the findings which will come out of the investigation into the Grenfell Tower fire.  Despite Reading Council’s blocks differing in design to Grenfell Tower, in order to provide residents with complete confidence and assurance, the Council is appointing an external organisation with specific expertise on fire safety in high rise blocks.  The organisation will carry out a review of our practice in the areas of management, fire safety measures and safety advice to tenants.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Reading Council and fire safety

Following the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower, Reading Council has clarified the situation in Reading. See below. We will keep up the pressure to ensure that all Reading residents live in decent, safe homes.

"Following this week’s horrific fire at Grenfell Tower in West London, I am sure like us your thoughts quickly turned to fire safety at tower blocks in Reading. This note is to provide you with a level of reassurance around existing fire safety measures in place. We hope it will help to answer any initial questions or concerns you may have.

The Council has three 14-storey blocks of flats in Coley, and four eight-storey blocks in Granville Road, Southcote. We are confident they meet high levels of fire safety standards. None of Reading Borough Council’s blocks have cladding systems comparable to those in Grenfell Tower Block.

The Coley high rise flats do not have a panel system. The blocks have limited, enclosed cavities between external cladding and the main concrete construction. On the limited elevations where they do occur, fire breaks are in place to stop the spread of fire. None of the other flatted blocks have cavities.

Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Services has audited 90 per cent of the Council’s blocks of flats - including our high rise blocks - and have not raised any significant issues.

The Council takes fire safety very seriously.  While tower blocks in Reading differ in design to Grenfell Tower, we are nonetheless appointing an external organisation with specific expertise on high rise blocks to review management practice, fire safety measures and construction and safety advice to tenants. We hope this additional external review will provide a further level of reassurance to you.

The Council is this week writing to all tenants in the Coley and Granville Road high rise flats to reassure them of the fire safety measures in place. The letter is attached - this includes a reissue of the fire safety information which we provide to all tenants."

Monday, 12 June 2017

Red Route consultation in Reading

UPDATE: I have now had a briefing from a transport planner and can confirm that contrary to what the council's press release says the parking bays on the Wokingham Road are being changed subtly to white marked bays as part of a Red Route. This means that anyone parking outside of the bay (double parking for example) should hopefully get a ticket. However pay-and-display machines (with a free 30 minutes) will still be needed to make sure people don't stay in the bays for too long.

The council has started consulting on a Red Route along the number 17 bus route. We think this is generally a good thing for creating a more reliable bus service. We also think that if done right it could tackle the Wokingham Road parking problems in the vicinity of Alfred Sutton school.

As you can see from the plans – linked to from the consultation page – the Red Route won't impact on the majority of the parking in the Wokingham Road shopping area. This means that the double parking would continue.

We think the council needs to introduce pay-and-display machines in this area at the same time as the Red Route. The pay-and-display machines could have a free first half hour so the free parking would be the same as it is now. However it would be easier for the traffic wardens to issue tickets as they would only need to do one pass – as opposed to the situation at the moment where what they need to do one pass to see who is parked there and a second pass to issue tickets, by which time everyone has seen them and moved.

Please respond to the consultation with your thoughts.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Passing places on Crescent Road #rdg to improve road safety, what do you think?

Green councillors have been continuing to lobby for road safety improvements on Crescent Road. There are a number of streams of work, this one – to make sure they school zigzags are in the right place – is the simplest and the furthest forward. We want to get some feedback from residents as early as possible.

The transport planners were just going to put double yellow lines and school keep clear markings on the school side of the road. However, we know from what parents have said to us that sometimes congestion means people drive on the pavement. One idea that we have had is to introduce some passing places – using short sections of double yellow lines like we have created at the west end of Crescent Road near to the Eastern Avenue double roundabout. We have asked transport planners if we could have some passing places as part of this scheme. They have suggested one – as marked on the map.

We would like to know what people think about the idea of some passing places in principle, how many – looking at the map I think we could do with another one – and where they should be. Please comment on the blog post/Facebook and so on to let me know what you think. Alternatively send me an email:

It should be noted that we also want the council to look at the traffic flow in the area more generally but this is obviously a bigger piece of work. Following our lobbying we hope to the council will have produced some ideas to talk to people about during the summer.

Green councillors will keep lobbying to make sure every child has a safe route to school.

Monday, 29 May 2017

Reading Council says 4-6 weeks until the delayed Whiteknights Dam works are completed

See below for an update from the council about the delayed Whiteknights Dam works. They say that it will be 4-6 weeks until the works have been finished. We will keep lobbying for the works to be completed as soon as possible.

"I refer to your recent enquiry concerning the progress of the Whiteknights Reservoir Scheme.

I can confirm that to date the contractor has completed  the drainage works, the gabion basket retaining structure and the concrete flood retaining wall (the wall that will protect the allotment and the homes).

The contractor is currently completing the brick cladding along the road frontage and the handrail fencing will commence shortly, followed by the reinstatement of the public footway and Allotment plots, including improvements to internal allotment footpaths and should complete their works within the next 4 - 6 week.

Reading Borough Council’s in-house Parks Department will complete the landscaping plan, which includes 3 new tress in the Allotment (Oak, Silver Birch and an apple tree), ground cover grass, Honeysuckle and native hedgerow). These works are scheduled to commence in the Autumn when it is appropriate to plant. The Scheme also included 5 new trees along the Wokingham Road corridor, to date 4 have been planted with one final tree to be installed on the central reservation near St Peter’s Road.

With regard to delays, the scheme was always going to be a very difficult one to deliver and our contractor has found it a challenge. As this is a Reservoir, the environmental constraints has caused the contractor to re-do some elements of the works, which compounded the programme. Areas that required alteration included some of the drainage. The rest of the delay has been down to sourcing approved materials to use with a reservoir and other engineering difficulties.

I trust this update provides the information you seek, however, if you have any further queries, please do not hesitate to contact me."

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Snap general election – vote Green and get involved

Reading and Wokingham Green Party have a selection process to go through, but I plan to put myself forward for selection as the candidate for the Reading East constituency.

I think calling a general election is the right thing for Teresa May to do. At the moment, she has no mandate for the extreme Brexit she is planning on inflicting on the country. If you oppose this extreme Brexit, if you believe in standing up for public services like children's centres and if you want a party that will protect precious green spaces like the Thamesside then your only option is to vote Green and get involved.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Red Route to tackle Wokingham Road #rdg parking problems

Green councillors have been campaigning to tackle dangerous parking problems on the Wokingham Road, near to Alfred Sutton school. The council will be consulting on introducing a Red Route later in the year. We think the best opportunity for improving road safety in the area.

Red Routes are used in London to help buses run on time. The Reading Red Route will be along the 17 bus route. It is a similar parking restriction to the current loading ban along much of this route, but easier to enforce. For example the CCTV camera car can be used to issue tickets.

At the same time as introducing the Red Route the council will also be looking at other measures to tackle problems. Green councillors would like to see pay-and-display (with a free first 30 minutes) introduced in the parking bays on Wokingham Road opposite Alfred Sutton school. This would make enforcement easier and help tackle some of the parking problems. It would also free up the bays for people using the local shops.

Let us know what you think. We will keep people updated when we have more information about the consultation.