Home Group moves residents into hotels after discovering the need for “significant remedial works”.
Residents at Riverside Place in Braintree, owned by Home Group, have been told to leave their homes after an extensive survey uncovered fire safety defects.
Details of the defects were not disclosed by Home Group but the association said customer safety is always its “paramount concern”. The development was only recently built.
Matt Forrest, executive director of operations at Home Group, said: “During one of [our] routine checks, and a subsequent extensive survey, it became clear that significant remedial works are needed at our Riverside Place properties.
“We have been working very closely with Essex Fire Service and have put extensive safety measures in place whilst we carried out our checks. We have kept our customers informed throughout this process.
“These investigations showed that to complete the work required to bring the building to a safety standard that we are satisfied with, unfortunately, we will have to move our customers out of the building. We are aware that this will cause them significant disruption to their day-to-day lives.
“It is not a decision that we have come to lightly. However, our customers’ safety is, and always will be, our paramount concern. We will continue to engage with them every step of the way.”
The Braintree & Witham Times reported that residents have been moved into hotels.
Risking the lives of occupants at a Southampton residential block has seen company director Charles Morgan fined and on the receiving end of a suspended prison sentence, after he pleaded guilty to providing a fire risk assessment that was not suitable or sufficient.
Speaking after the case Deputy Chief Fire Officer Steve Apter said:
“Fire risk assessments underpin the whole process of building fire safety. Mr Morgan failed to inspect and identify fire safety deficiencies within the building and failed to note a compromised alarm and evacuation strategy for the residents. This shortfall meant that those responsible for implementing fire safety measures were unable to fulfil their legal obligations and placed occupants at risk of death or serious injury had a fire occurred.
“Mr Morgan elected to go to trial in the crown court and his legal team, Warren Spencer of Blackhurst Budd, submitted an abuse of process defence resulting in significant extra work for the prosecution team, extra legal argument hearings and resulting in additional costs to the public purse.
“We were confident that the case passed the evidential threshold and following the Judge’s comments that the abuse of process argument was “without merit”, it was pleasing that the Fire Authority’s cost application was met in full.”
Grenfell fire risk assessor had “misleading” qualifications and “copied” other building reports into assessments
Britain's pandemic lockdowns may have led Housing providers to have greater insight into their residents’ varying levels of vulnerability than ever before, which, from a fire safety perspective, presents a window of opportunity.
By proactively attempting to contact all residents at the start of lockdown, councils like the London Borough of Enfield have been able to engage with tenants and consider their needs beyond the crisis. As a result of these proactive welfare calls, Enfield is making further contact with their most vulnerable tenants that would be most likely to benefit from a person-centred fire risk assessments (PCFRA).
For those living in general needs housing, social landlords will need to seek additional and practical measures such as preventative technologies to ensure adequate protection for their most vulnerable residents.
While housing providers have been exceptional at ensuring their residents, particularly those considered to be vulnerable, get the support they need through the pandemic, my hope is that many of the lessons learned from taking this approach will be adopted long term.
In doing so, housing providers will be in a position to better tackle fire safety – an issue which, let’s face it, isn’t going away any time soon.
London’s largest housing associations expect their bills for fixing unsafe cladding to hit nearly £3bn over the next decade.
Together, G15 housing associations own and manage more than 600,000 homes, many of which are in high rises.
The group collectively spent £127.7m on fire remediation work in 2019/20 and expects the sum for the current financial year to reach £222.7m.
Business plans project the annual bill to peak at an eye-watering £354.7m in 2022/23 and to remain above £300m in the following two years.
By 2031/32, the annual cost to the G15 of dealing with the cladding crisis is still expected to be £136.1m.
All this comes on top of vast amounts of spending on fire safety in the more immediate aftermath of Grenfell.
Helen Evans, chair of the G15 and chief executive of 20,000-home landlord Network Homes, said: “This figure is only the known cost of works to buildings already identified as requiring remediation.
“It is not the final number and does not include costs relating to the majority of buildings under 18 metres in height.
“While we are getting on with the necessary building safety remediation, every pound spent on that reduces what is available to spend improving or repairing our homes, including reducing carbon emissions and developing the new affordable homes that are so urgently needed.”
Margins at large housing associations in London have already been squeezed by huge fire safety bills in the past financial year.
Last week, the G15 revealed that sales and mortgage renewals on nearly 2,000 of its members’ homes are currently on hold due to the cladding crisis – a rise of more than 100% in six months.
Mortgage providers are currently refusing to lend on flats in buildings where there are concerns over cladding or where the materials have not yet been confirmed as safe, in a crisis believed to affect as many as 11 million people.
Original article at: www.insidehousing.co.uk
Tilden Watson, Zurich Municipal’s Head of Education, said: “An alarming number of school buildings pose a high fire risk – yet many are poorly protected against a potential blaze. Unless Ministers bring England into line with other parts of the UK, where sprinklers are mandatory, large fires will continue to blight schools. This is harming children’s education and putting lives at risk.
“As well as protecting pupils, sprinklers drastically reduce the extent of damage when there is a blaze, often confining the fire to a single room. This gets children back into schools and classrooms quicker as well as saving taxpayers’ money.”
Nick Coombe, Protection Vice Chair and Building Safety Programme Lead for the National Fire Chiefs Council, said: “The case for sprinklers is compelling. Of almost 1,000 fires over five years in buildings where sprinklers were fitted, our research found they controlled or extinguished blazes in 99% of cases. We want to see a greater inclusion of Automatic Fire Suppression Systems (AFSS), including sprinklers, across the built environment. Sprinklers can dramatically reduce fire damage, making the reopening of a school much easier. This not only minimises the disruption to a pupil’s education, but also the impact on their family, the community and the wider education establishment.”
In June, Boris Johnson pledged £1bn to fund a decade long school rebuilding and repair programme and a further £560m in early August. Based on large fires alone, Zurich estimates that the repair for school fires could hit £320 million over 10 years – a significant portion of the government’s slated investment. Zurich wants the government to ring-fence some of its promised investment to improve the resilience of schools at high risk of fire. Insurers work closely with schools to help them manage their fire risks but the installation of sprinklers minimise the dangers from the outset.
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRO) states that almost all types of premises – unless a single domestic dwelling – must be subject to a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment. It is the duty of the ‘Responsible Person’ to take general fire precautions as far as reasonably practicable under the RRO Part 2 to ensure the premises is safe for all relevant persons and to reduce the risk of harm and prevent fire.
The ‘Relevant Persons’ are defined in the RRO Part 1 Article 2 as:
To summarise, a ‘Responsible Person’ could be the employer, owner, landlord or appointed managing agent of the premises. In some buildings there may be more than one Responsible Person.
How often should a fire risk assessment be undertaken/reviewed?The fire safety order 2005 states that if necessary, the ‘Responsible Person’ should seek safety assistance to assist when carrying out a risk assessment by appointing a competent person. The RRO Part 2 Article 18 defines a competent person providing safety assistance as an individual who has sufficient training and experience or knowledge and other qualities to enable them properly to assist in undertaking the preventative and protective measures.
In terms of undertaking/reviewing fire risk assessments there is often no prescriptive time frame, but the ‘Responsible Person’ should regularly review the document to ensure it remains up to date and relevant to the premises. If the fire risk assessment is no longer valid due to a significant change to the premises such as structural alterations, change of building use, increase in occupancy or use by a different group of people etc. then the risk of fire has changed and a review of the existing fire risk assessment is required with the changes made as appropriate.
It should be noted that a prescribed record of the fire risk assessment should be documented if:
The 4 types of fire risk assessmentThe RRO does not expand on how intrusive a fire safety risk assessment should be. When it comes to creating a fire risk assessment for residential properties only, there are 4 different ‘types’ defined as endorsed by the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) ‘Fire Safety in Purpose Built Blocks of Flats’, issued by the Local Government Association in 2012.
It is important to stress, the above types ONLY apply to domestic dwellings and not commercial properties. If the existing compartmentation is insufficient and as a result people are at risk, the emergency plan for the premises should be reviewed by a competent person.
Director of BBFS.