Grenfell disaster sparks sweeping safety checks at Lincolnshire schools

South View Community Primary School is under review as part of county-wide fire safety inspections. SG280617-113TW
South View Community Primary School is under review as part of county-wide fire safety inspections. SG280617-113TW

Hundreds of schools along with county hospitals are undergoing urgent fire safety checks in the wake of London’s Grenfell Tower disaster.

External cladding on the ill-fated tower block is blamed for fire spreading rapidly, engulfing all 24 floors and claiming at least 79 lives.

The county council is checking more than 900 buildings, including schools like Crowland’s South View County Primary, which has external cladding, and health trusts are examining hospitals.

Spalding’s Johnson Community Hospital is undergoing fire safety checks this week as part of an internal review that started before the London disaster on June 14,

Acute hospitals, including Boston’s Pilgrim Hospital, have been given the all-clear.

Crowland county councillor Nigel Pepper, who was a watch manager with Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue, learned of the mass safety checks after parents contacted him.

Coun Pepper said: “I am not sure if there are any concerns at all but clearly it (South View) has got blue cladding on the front of it, which raises the question of whether it is fire retardant.

“It was refurbished three years ago and presumably it would have come under the appropriate fire regulations, one would hope so. It’s not been on there particularly long.

“I am sure there’s dozens and dozens of schools throughout Lincolnshire that have got cladding.

“My concern comes from being a former firefighter who worked at Crowland Fire Station for many years.

“So I’m seeing it from another angle.”

Holbeach Academy principal Steve Baragwanath said: “Everyone understands that after Grenfell Tower you have got to be very vigilant.”

His school is now responding to fire safety questions in a Government survey and has contacted the local authority to say it has cladding on ground-floor and first-floor buildings, and is awaiting a response regarding its specifications.

The academy has strict fire safety procedures in place and Mr Baragwanath says he has “no safety concerns”.

He said: “I don’t think the majority of schools will have safety concerns because they are not residential.”

Lincolnshire County Council’s county property officer Kevin Kendall said: “The Department for Education has asked local authorities to identify any school buildings of four storeys or more with aluminium cladding, which may require further investigation.

“We have taken the decision to review all county council buildings, including all schools and academies, regardless of their height for the presence of aluminium cladding. Of our 923 sites, only 17 have buildings of four storeys or more, five of which are schools, which the Government have asked us to review as a priority.

“Where we identify other buildings with cladding, we will also carry out further inspections. This will include Crowland school.”

A spokesman for United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust, which manages Pilgrim, Lincoln County and Grantham hospitals, said “no issues” have been found as a result of checks at hospitals including Pilgrim, Lincoln County and Grantham.

Lincolnshire Community Health Services NHS Trust is checking Spalding’s hospital.

The trust’s deputy director of nursing, Susan Ombler, said: “We are currently undertaking an internal review of fire safety at all of the sites from which our services operate, including Johnson Community Hospital.

“This is part of a planned work programme which commenced before the fire at Grenfell Tower took place and started in our older buildings first. We anticipate our review at Johnson Community Hospital will be completed this week.”

The Grenfell Tower disaster was triggered by a fridge freezer fire, but instead of being contained in a single flat the flames spread to the whole building. The death toll from the fire is expected to rise.

• South View Primary School was given an opportunity to comment on this story.