Cladding identified as “potentially unsafe” on five tower blocks in Trafford after the Grenfell blaze will not be replaced until next year.

Two and a half years after the blaze in the Kensington and Chelsea Council-run block killed at least 72 people in London, the cladding on five out of eight high-rise buildings owned by Trafford Housing Trust still needs to be removed.

Trafford Council does not own or manage the tower blocks, which have been signed over to the housing trust, but the trust is one of the council’s registered social housing providers.

Originally, work to replace the cladding was due to be completed by February 2020, but is now expected to take until the summer of 2020.

All five residential blocks concerned are in Old Trafford, and urgent tests carried out on their cladding after the Grenfell fire in June 2017 found components that were “potentially a safety concern”.

All residents living in the blocks were informed of the test results at the time and were told about a change to the buildings’ evacuation policy – residents must no longer ‘stay put’ in their homes if the fire alarm sounds, but must get out.

One resident moved elsewhere in the borough after the test results were released; five others applied to move but later withdrew their requests after talks with Trafford Housing Trust.

Since then, residents were invited to drop-in sessions in May this year to get more information on fire safety if they wanted it.

In July 2019, the housing trust told Trafford Council’s scrutiny committee that work to replace the cladding was “underway” and it had started work on the Princess Court tower the month before, which was then followed by work on Empress Court and Pickford Court.

Trust representatives said work is “ongoing” for these three towers and will be completed in March 2020.

Trust representatives said problems with funding and hiring cladding experts had led to the “unavoidable” two year delay in starting the replacement work.

Trafford Housing Trust said all of the new cladding for the blocks was selected from the pre-approved list that was released by the government after Grenfell.

Since the Grenfell tower fire, Trafford Housing Trust said it has carried out monthly fire risk assessments, increased its investment in fire safety measures and hired a fire safety lead officer to carry out regular assessments on all housing stock and provide training.

The trust has also hired two building safety managers and has been looking into the option of installing sprinklers to its high-rises, something its board is due to decide on.

The housing trust has offered to cover installation costs, which would be between £2,000 and £2,500 per unit.

Residents would still have to pay for the sprinklers’ maintenance if they were to be installed, which would cost between £30 and £60 per year.

At a scrutiny committee meeting tonight, Trafford Council will decide whether or not to submit a letter to Trafford Housing Trust, calling for an update on the cladding replacement plans in March 2020 and voicing its support for sprinkler plans.

Council leader Coun Andrew Western and former council leader Coun Sean Anstee are two of the directors of Trafford Housing Trust. Trafford Council has said they are not acting as councillors on the board and were invited to join in their individual capacities.

A spokesperson for Trafford Council said: “Trafford Council has been in regular dialogue with Trafford Housing Trust regarding the tower blocks. The safety of residents remains paramount to the council, and we are aware that Trafford Housing Trust have put in place measures to ensure residents’ safety whilst going through the process of removing and replacing the cladding.”

Iain Wallace, director of property services at Trafford Housing Trust, said: “Trafford Housing Trust puts the safety of its customers at the heart of everything it does.

“As a responsible housing association, THT regularly seeks advice as a matter of course from Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service, independent fire safety experts and the Government to ensure that we continue to conform to the very highest fire safety standards.

“We take care to follow new guidelines and put extra steps in place to ensure the safety of our customers including the introduction of Fire Wardens in 2017, carrying out the highest levels of Fire Risk Assessments and monthly inspections of the high-rise towers by fire safety experts.”

He added: “The trust continues to develop its resident engagement strategy to ensure that all customers have a voice and an opportunity to raise any concerns they may have with the buildings that they choose to live in.”