Published: 16:28, 18 November 2020
| Updated: 16:29, 18 November 2020
Foam panels cladding a huge block of student flats are the same kind used at the fire-ravaged Grenfell Tower - and are now set to be completely replaced.
The insulation material - Celotex RS5000 - covers the five-storey Palamon Court in Rhodaus Town,Canterbury, which is home to more than 525 students.
The product - which sits between the exterior and inner walls - has now been withdrawn by the manufacturer while a review of fire safety in high-rise buildings is undertaken by the Government.
As a result, the owners of Palamon Court commissioned a review of its fire safety protection.
They have subsequently applied for permission to replace all of the cladding at the student block, including the current exterior panels.
The Grenfell Fire tragedy claimed 72 lives in June 2017, shortly before Palamon Court opened in the same year.
The cladding used at the city development complied with fire regulations at the time of construction, and currently still does.
But DS Fiona McCormack, who investigated the Grenfell blaze, said of Celotex RS5000: "The insulation was more flammable than the cladding (exterior panels). Tests show the insulation samples combusted soon after the test started."
In the planning application for the replacement cladding at Palamon Court, a surveyor's report says: "Given recent fire events, the use of combustible material in the built environment is being actively reviewed by government and private sector organisations to determine the level of risk present and mitigate accordingly.
"Assessments concerning fire spread in external walls have included the comprehensive review of a building’s level of compliance at the time of construction, through to the current hazard provided to the building’s occupants.
"It has been identified that the current cladding at Palamon Court is made of limited combustibility panels and PIR RS5000 foam insulation.
"To expedite the safest solution, the insulation and cladding system are to be replaced."
It recommends that "100% non combustible" panels and insulation are used at Palamon Court, which was designed by architect Guy Holloway and shortlisted for an award.
The company which manages the building insists it is currently safe and will seek to reassure students.
Chief executive of CRM Students, Stewart Moore says the building remains conpliant with current regulations and robust fire safety measures, and drills are in place with a 24-hour security presence.
"There are over 20,000 buildings in the country with this cladding on and so living under this shadow, to some extent," he said.
"In reality, the owners are being pro-active and we welcome it.
"There is going to be some distraction to our students but we will try and get it done during the summer and will just have to manage it."
Mr Moore says students on the site have not yet been told about the proposed works, but would be written to when planning permission is granted, with all their questions answered.
"We are very reassured the owners are being pro-active even though the building now would probably pass government inspection.
"But what they are trying to do is build in belt and braces."