Newcastle University review building safety as flammable cladding claims emerge over private block

A major review of student accommodation in Newcastle is under way as it emerged a building housing hundreds of students may be fitted with flammable cladding.

Newcastle University revealed it is reviewing all of its buildings as a precaution following the Grenfell Tower fire in London on June 14 which has claimed at least 79 lives.

While Northumbria University said it is issuing its students with guidance.

On Friday it emerged the Shield Building, which is due to open in September, has been fitted with the same flammable Reynobond PE cladding and it has been claimed the privately-run St James’ Point building may be fitted with the same.

Reynobond PE has a flammable, plastic core had been blamed for the way the deadly blaze rapidly spread through Grenfell Tower.

The Pitt Street block is home to 216 student studio apartments.

Despite repeated calls from ChronicleLive reporters to the building’s managers, Derwent Students, and owner Brookfield Student Real Estate, both firms refused to confirm the type of cladding used on St James’ Point.

A report in the Mail on Sunday featured a picture of the block, claiming it is fitted with similar cladding to the Reynobond PE panels.

St James' Point student flats in Gallowgate
St James’ Point student flats in Gallowgate

A Newcastle University spokesperson said: “Following the recent tragic events at Grenfell Tower we are undertaking a precautionary review of all our buildings and also liaising with private sector providers of student accommodation.

“These are precautionary measures and we would reassure our students, staff and visitors that we do not believe there is cause for concern. The safety of all our campus users is an absolute priority which is why we already have in place measures to regularly risk assess and manage fire safety.

“St James’ Point isn’t one of our accommodation partners. We are in touch with our students living there to provide support and guidance.”

Newcastle City Council said it is investigating the claims.

A council spokesman said: “We are aware that Reynobold aluminium cladding panels were specified for use on this project.

“We are talking to the developer to examine the building design drawings for compliance with building regulations, in order to establish the exact type of Reynobold cladding used. “The building designers will be part of this process.”

The cladding costs just £2 less per square metre than Reynobond’s fire resistant FR cladding.

And while the PE panels do conform to British safety standards they have been ruled dangerous elsewhere and their use is restricted in many countries – with it classed as flammable by the German government.

St James' Point student flats in Gallowgate
St James’ Point student flats in Gallowgate

ChronicleLive first asked the managers of St James’ Point if the block is fitted with the flammable cladding on Monday, and, following repeated requests, they have failed to deny the building features Reynobond PE panels.

On Monday evening, Derwent Students sent ChronicleLive a statement, which said the building meets safety standards, but did not reveal the specific type of cladding used on the block.

A spokesperson for Derwent Students said a fire authority audit was completed in May and no issues were found.

They said: “A spokesperson for St James’ Point would like to state that we take the safety of our student residents extremely seriously. Their welfare is of paramount importance to us, and continues to be our top priority.”

On Thursday, ChronicleLive again asked Derwent Students if the cladding is similar to the Reynobond PE panels but was told the firm had written to Brookfield Student Real Estate and was awaiting a response.

A reporter directly contacted Brookfield Student Real Estate on Friday but after introducing themselves the firm hung up and subsequent calls were sent to voicemail.

The firm then issued a statement arrived on Friday afternoon.

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Grenfell Tower Fire

It said: “The safety and welfare of our student residents is, as always, St James’ Point’s top priority. We have conducted a comprehensive review of fire safety and can assure our residents, their families and our university stakeholders that St James’ Point is designed, built and managed to the highest fire safety standards which meet and exceed regulatory requirements in all areas.”

On Friday, architects Day said they would be unable to find out the information until Monday.

The firm’s website says St James’ Point features “a mixture of aluminium cladding.”

ChronicleLive has sent a further request to Derwent Students and Brookfield Student Real Estate regarding the type of cladding used on the building.

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