Roped in to clean Sheffield towers

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DANGLING from the side of a 50 metre-high tower block on ropes just a centimetre thick is not a job for the faint-hearted.

But Joe Pancott and Damien Ridesdale, workers for Sheffield-based IMS Access Ltd, are well-practised - and are spending this week cleaning the sides of the city’s oldest remaining high-rise flats.

The pair are part of the company’s seven-strong workforce who go around the country working on high-rise buildings.

Accompanied by colleague James Gibson, who stays at ground level responsible for health and safety, Joe and Damien have been working on the buildings in Gleadless Valley since Monday.

The job, at the 13-storey Queen Elizabeth and Queen Anne towers, managed by housing association Places for People, is set to be completed tomorrow.

Wil Banyard, operations manager for IMS Access based on Upwell Street, Fir Vale, said: “Joe and Damien are very experienced at the job and have worked on tall buildings around the country.

“They are working on the two blocks of flats all this week. It is a difficult job because the cladding has some intricate sections of cladding, and moss and fungus has grown. They are using a jet wash and chemical treatment.”

The two men are using ropes called dynamic cord, which though just 10 to 11mm thick can cope with loads of 2,000 lbs - or more than 900kg.

Wil added: “They are up there for around 25 minutes at a time, which is how long it takes to do one run down the side of the buildings.

“They start at the top and abseil down, cleaning as they go. The surfaces are now looking good after their hard work and elbow grease!”

Wil said his company uses a variety of systems on high buildings, from vehicle-mounted platforms to cradles winched down exterior walls. Ropes were chosen for Gleadless Valley because of the height and the lack of a cradle on the towers.

The two blocks, built in 1959 and originally called Morland and Leighton, are at one of the highest points in Sheffield, near the Herdings tram terminus, and were the first tower blocks in the city.

There was originally a third tower, Raeburn, which was demolished in the mid-1990s.

Queen Elizabeth and Queen Anne towers were re-clad in 1998 with modern rainscreen cladding, and fitted with new windows to deal with damp and heat loss, as the concrete floors were originally exposed, and external walls uninsulated.

The blocks were renamed when refurbished.