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Ron Alalouff is a journalist specialising in the fire and security markets, and a former editor of websites and magazines in the same fields.
October 19, 2022

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Building safety

Compartmentation failings in residential blocks built in 2017 as council faces up to £20m in remediation costs

A local council may be facing millions in fire safety remedial costs for relatively new apartment blocks, as Ron Alalouff reports.

Mansfield District Council could be facing up to a reported £20m in costs to fix serious fire safety construction failings at three apartment blocks it owns in London, which were built as recently as 2017. The building was bought by the Council as an investment in 2017.

ClaphamResidentialBlocks-FireSafetyFailings-LDRS

50-52 Bedford Road (Image credit: Local Democracy Reporting Service)

A notification of deficiencies issued by London Fire Brigade in September 2021 states that there are numerous contraventions of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, including:

  • The absence of 60 minutes’ fire resistance in protected escape routes in corridors, lobbies and stairs
  • Deficiencies in the fire resistance of protected routes and flat entrance doors
  • Fire exits in the basement car park which need a key fob to operate.

In its notification, London Fire Brigade also strongly urged the consideration of combustible façade cladding materials as part of the risk assessment process, with all relevant information about any replacement window and façade schemes made fully available to the fire risk assessor.

The notification relating to the property at 50-52 Bedford Road in Clapham – which includes commercial premises on the ground floor and 40 apartments above spread over three blocks – also states that Mansfield District Council had failed to plan and organise remedial works within the timeframe detailed in a fire risk assessment in 2019, and that preventative and protective measures had not been taken or reviewed where required. It also said the general fire precautions identified by the fire risk assessment had not been implemented.

London Fire Brigade recommended that the remedial work and actions should be carried out by 8 May 2024.

A Notification of Fire Safety Deficiencies has no statutory force but may result in enforcement action or prosecution action being taken, if the agreed improvements do not take place.

Delayed remedial works

The remedial works ­ – which will involve three phases and will require residents to vacate their homes for some of the time – have been delayed on at least two occasions since 2021 and are now not due to start until May 2023, according to residents. A council source told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that the work would cost 20m.

Mansfield District Council says that following a fire risk assessment in 2018, it took immediate action in conjunction with London Fire Brigade and the residents by implementing temporary fire protection measures, which include a waking watch.

A council spokesperson said: “Following the investigation, we took the necessary steps to implement governmental guidance in respect of additional fire safety measures that allow the building to continue to be safely occupied, whilst arrangements are made for the required remedial works.

“The remedial works required are complex and whilst we have unfortunately experienced some delays, we have been keeping tenants and residents up-to-date with letters and information about our progress.”

Asked whether the council is seeking to recover costs from a third party, the spokesperson said: “As you would expect, the council is exploring all avenues regarding recovery of these costs.”

The council spokesperson added: “Following an independent assessment of the building in 2018, the council took immediate action to address several fire safety concerns and keep tenants and residents safe in their homes. The council has worked co-operatively with the London Fire Brigade and with tenants to ensure that additional temporary fire protection measures are in place so that the property is safe to occupy until the remedial works have been completed.

“The council – as a responsible landlord and property owner – has undertaken an extensive investigation into the fire safety issues at the property and determined a programme of required works to remedy the concerns. In the meantime, the council is satisfied that it has taken all necessary steps to ensure the immediate safety of its tenants and that the building is safe to occupy.

“There are three phases of work to the building, with tenants being temporarily relocated whilst these phased works are delivered – other residents will be able to remain safely in situ whilst the works are undertaken. We expect the work to begin in 2023.

“The project requires a detailed design and tender process which the council is currently progressing. The costs for such works are included within the council’s approved capital programme.”

 

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