Two mystery hotels in Berkshire have the same cladding as Grenfell Tower.
The fire service won’t reveal the locations of two hotels in Berkshire with the same cladding as Grenfell Tower due to fears of ‘arson and terrorism’.
The two buildings have the same aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding which caused the rapid spread of the tower block fire that killed 72 people in June 2017. Cladding is attached to a building as an external rainscreen to prevent water getting into walls.
But the Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service (RBFRS) will not give the name, addresses and owners of the two hotels, because of concerns they would be targets for arsonists and terrorists.
In response to a freedom of ifnormation request, Emily Houghton, information officer at RBFRS, said: “There is a likelihood of the buildings being targeted by persons with malicious intent, for example arsonists or terrorists, should the requested information be disclosed.”
The fire service said one hotel has an “action plan” to remove cladding, due to finish by December; while the other is not planning to remove the cladding as it is less than 18 metres in height.
Current fire safety regulations ban ACM cladding on residential buildings 18 or more metres tall, but not including hotels.
However last month, the government announced plans to reduce this threshold, banning flammable cladding on residential buildings 11 metres or more in height; and also on hotels.
The second hotel — with no plans to remove cladding — is between 11 and 18 metres in height, according to RBFRS, and could fall under the new ban.
The Information Commissioner, a government regulator, said people staying in the hotels should be told of the cladding; but agreed the locations should not be published.
Following a complaint about RBFRS, the commissioner said: “There is a strong public interest in individual occupants of the affected buildings being made aware, as to whether or not the buildings they are in have ACM cladding, and if there are any associated risks.
“However, as she understands it, residents have been made aware of the issues.”
But, residents and staff at another Berkshire building affected — Queens Court student accommodation in Reading — were previously unaware when interviewed of the ACM cladding on their building. Work has now started to remove it.
The fire service is also unaware whether the two hotels inform their guests of the cladding. A spokesman said: “We do not hold information on businesses policies regarding customer communications.”
Workers installing scaffolding on student accommodation, Queens Court in Reading, ahead of removing ACM cladding (this is not one of the hotels).
A third hotel, Premier Inn on Kidwells Park Drive, Maidenhead, had ACM cladding, but that has now been fully removed.
In a statement, a spokesman said: “RBFRS is keen to see a building safety system, which ensures that all risks associated with ACM and other cladding systems are effectively dealt with to ensure the safety of our communities.
“We are hopeful we will have enhanced powers under the new building safety programme.”
The spokesman added the fire service is working with “responsible persons for premises with ACM cladding” and visiting buildings regularly to help with fire safety.
Regarding the plan to extend the ban from 18 metres to 11 metres, the spokesman said: “Following the introduction of any agreed changes, we will work with the responsible person to support them to discharge their responsibilities.”
The hotels cannot be asked themselves if they inform guests of the cladding — because the fire service will not say who owns the buildings, as this could make it possible to identify where the hotels are.
This is despite the government recently announcing it will soon begin naming owners of buildings where work to remove cladding has not yet started.
By Alex Seabrook, Local Democracy Reporting Service