New Providence Wharf: The four-year fight to remove 'Grenfell cladding'

Handout photo dated 07/05/21 isssued by Athina Fokidou @athinaf showing a fire at New Providence Wha

The fire at New Providence Wharf today - Credit: PA/Athina Fokidou

More than 100 firefighters have been tackling a huge blaze at a tower block near Canary Wharf which is wrapped in Grenfell-like cladding. 

Emergency services were called to the huge New Providence Wharf development on the Thames waterfront, next to the Blackwall Tunnel, after a fire broke out in parts of the eighth, ninth and 10th floors of a 19-storey tower in Fairmont Avenue.

Work to remove the controversial cladding at the development, which was completed in 2004, was set to begin following years of pressure by campaigners in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster in June 2017.

Here’s a timeline of events leading up to today’s blaze: 

November 2013: Sixty residents from a nine-storey block of flats were evacuated after a fire broke out on the fourth floor of the building in New Providence Wharf.

June 2017: More than 70 people died after the Grenfell Tower blaze in North Kensington.

November 2018: Then-Housing Secretary James Brokenshire was urged to step in to stop households being slapped with a £2.4 million bill to replace fire combustible cladding covering the New Providence Wharf complex.

The aluminium composite material (ACM) has been blamed for the rapid spread of the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017.

Tower Hamlets mayor John Biggs wrote to the minister about 559 residents in the tower blocks being asked to pick up the tab by developers Ballymore.

March 2019: Homeowners living in New Providence Wharf stepped up their campaign to get the cladding removed after they were forced to flee down a “smoke-filled fire escape” when a blaze broke out.

May 2019: Home-owners won their battle to get the fire combustible material removed from their tower blocks.

The Housing Ministry coughed up £200m to make 170 privately-owned towers across the UK safe, meaning the 559 households in the privately-owned New Providence Wharf development wouldn't have to pay to replace the cladding. 

January 2021: A government report revealed the deadly fire-risk cladding still hasn’t been taken off the New Providence Wharf development - three and a half years after the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

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It emerged work hadn't yet started on 38 privately-owned high rises, including New Providence Wharf, even though Whitehall cash was made available two years earlier.

Developer Ballymore said work on the horseshoe-shaped New Providence Wharf was complicated as it faces directly onto the river and its apartments are occupied by more than 1,000 residents. It anticipated the work would begin in April. 

February 2021
The government committed more cash to get rid of dangerous cladding on privately-owned tower blocks like New Providence Wharf. 

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick told MPs in the Commons that an additional £3.5billion was being made available to remove unsafe cladding from high-rise and medium-rise buildings, while a levy on developers building certain new tower blocks was being brought in. 

May 2021
Two men have been taken to hospital suffering smoke inhalation and another 38 adults and four children have been treated at the scene for shock and smoke inhalation after a blaze broke out at New Providence Wharf this morning.