AN INVESTIGATION into tower blocks housing hundreds of people has exposed fire risks and falling concrete.

Brighton and Hove City Council has been advised to complete repairs following an inspection of high-rises across the city.

The council called in inspectors following a letter from the Government urging local authorities to check on their Large Panel System tower blocks.

The inspectors found cracks large enough to allow smoke through in the event of a fire.

They said the council should now carry out a full structural assessment on a number of blocks.

The Large Panel System (LPS) is a construction method which has been linked to serious fire and structural risks.

Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion, said: “Everyone living in high-rise accommodation has the right to feel safe and these structural reports suggest there is real cause for concern, especially around smoke.

“We have known for decades that blocks built with this method are not sound.

“It is a national problem and the Government needs to take responsibility for it and come up with a plan to help local authorities deal with it.”

Inspectors visited eight Brighton blocks, home to more than 500 people, from April 1.

Cracks large enough to be a passage for smoke in the event of fire were found in dry risers [pipes] at Falcon Court, Heron Court, Kestrel Court and Kingfisher Court.

They found no record that any structural strengthening had ever taken place – despite the LPS blocks being built in the 1960s.

Graham Ennis, a resident at Dudeney Lodge in Hollingdean, Brighton, who complained about a crack in his ceiling, said: “I wanted to know if our homes were safe and, after reading the reports, they obviously are not.

“Now that the risks have been exposed, I want the council to take action.”

The council has also been warned that concrete is at risk of falling off St James’ house, a tower block in High Street, Brighton.

The inspectors said a cordon should be set up as cracked concrete was at risk of falling from the third and fourth floors. They said previous concrete repairs must be looked at again “as soon as possible” as they could fall out on to the pavement. However, the report said there was no obvious significant structural damage to the buildings in the areas that could be inspected.

THE investigation comes after a Government letter to councils which asked them to carry out inspections into their LPS buildings.

Safety concerns about LPS buildings were raised as far back as 1968 after the Ronan Point tragedy in East London.

Ronan Point, an LPS tower block, collapsed in a gas explosion, killing four people and injuring 17.

A leading housing campaigner has demanded Brighton and Hove City Council take action following the reports.

Danielle Gregory, from Tower Blocks UK, said: “The main issue from what we see in the reports is that they have not done the crucial tests for resistance to disproportionate collapse. These tests must be done.

“There’s no evidence that strengthening was ever carried out at these blocks and so, in line with the recommendations from Government and taking into consideration that even blocks that have had strengthening are being found to fall short of the regulations, it would be irresponsible to ignore the importance of these tests during the course of the investigations.”

A council spokesman said it will be conducting a series of repairs and tests following the investigation.

He said: “While we found no evidence that strengthening work had been done, we cannot say for sure that no such work was done.

“We will therefore be doing a more detailed investigation in order to establish what action, if any, we need to take.

“The report identifies very slight gaps between the panels in the Dry Rise.

“The flats we surveyed were a representative selection.

“If residents whose flats were not inspected have concerns we would be happy for them to contact us.

“We will be sealing these at all levels within the buildings as recommended in the report.”

The council also apologised for incorrectly answering a Freedom of Information request.

On August 28 last year, Brighton and Hove City Council was asked which LPS blocks have been demolished while under its control?

It responded that “we do not have any high-rise blocks constructed using the large panel system”.

A spokesman said: “It is clear that we misunderstood one of the questions and gave an incorrect response, and we would like to apologise for this.”

He added: “The surveys were carried out to ensure our records on the buildings are up-to-date, following concerns raised about certain types of ‘large panel system’ high-rise blocks nationally.

“The reports did highlight some non-urgent repairs and these will be scheduled into our programme of planned maintenance.

“We’ve been in touch with residents of the blocks about the survey results and will continue to survey all our buildings regularly.”