Enforcement notices served at other Worcester Park blocks
THE ESTATE in London, which saw a fire in September destroy a block, has been served 16 enforcement notices by London Fire Brigade (LFB) owned by the same housing company.
In the fire in September, Richmond House on the estate burnt down, and in October residents were told they had been ‘left at risk’ because of ‘missing or useless’ compartmentation. BBC News established ‘apparent flaws’ in two other buildings constructed by the same developer – Berkley Group – that would ‘allow fire to spread quickly’, with housing association Metropolitan Thames Valley Housing (MTVH) amending its stay put policy in response.
Berkley Group responded at the time that all properties had been ‘independently signed off’, but BBC News added that the timber frame homes required firestopping ‘to prevent the spread of fire’, and while there were no injuries in the blaze, residents ‘believed they just about escaped in time’, with a number losing homes. The development ‘has since been on high alert’ with 24 hour waking watch patrols, and MTVH ‘fitted smoke alarms in the electrical cupboards of all our blocks’.
Two independent surveyors assessed another building on site, and found fire would ‘spread at speed’ there due to missing compartmentation, Arnold Tarling finding a ‘large gap between the fire stopping and the cladding’ which would act as a ‘chimney through which a fire will spread. What we have here is a form of fire stopping which just won’t do its job’.
Greig Adams said the breaches had ‘consequences, including a considerable increased risk to life in the event of a fire. The provision of effective fire barriers is a mandatory requirement, not an element that can be shoddily thrown together or to cut corners on’. Previous residents had contacted Berkley Group ‘years ago’ over fire safety concerns, with an independent inspector hired in 2005 finding ‘similar problems’ with compartmentation.
Mr Tarling stated that ‘there needs to be a full investigation of these properties, not only by the contractor but by the authorities’, with MTVH noting it had commissioned surveys of all buildings it either owns or manages. However, Inside Housing has now reported that LFB has issued 16 enforcement notices for MTVH buildings on Worcester Park estate, after intrusive surveys at Richmond House found ‘a series of defects in the passive fire protection’.
This will now necessitate remedial work including ‘installing or improving’ cavity barriers in external wall systems, and correcting internal firestopping elements, with MTVH having until 30 April 2021 to complete the work. This is expected to be undertaken by original developer St James, which was also issued enforcement notices on some of its buildings on the estate, and MTVH has pledged to rebuild the block – which had been made up of 23 shared ownership homes.
Post fire, the waking watch has been accompanied by a move to simultaneous evacuation across the estate, while the communal fire alarm systems are ‘in the process of being installed’. An MTVH representative added: ‘Following the fire at Richmond House at The Hamptons on September 9th, our focus as a charitable housing association has been to do everything we can to support those residents directly affected, to ensure the safety of our other residents on the estate and to understand as best we can what happened on that night.
‘Over the past few days, we have shared with all MTVH residents the results of in-depth investigations by independent experts into the construction of the buildings we own at The Hamptons to establish if there are any structural issues that could compromise fire safety. MTVH will ensure that all remedial work is overseen by appropriate independent experts to check that works are installed correctly and meet the requirements of the building regulations.’
An LFB spokesperson said: ‘LFB carried out a post fire inspection and found a number of fire safety breaches. We have issued enforcement notices detailing the areas the responsible person needs to address and we will revisit the premises to see how this is being completed. Stay put advice has been temporarily suspended and a simultaneous evacuation strategy – a procedure in which all or parts of a building are evacuated in the event of the fire at one time – has been implemented.
‘We’re satisfied with this arrangement and will continue to work with the building owners to ensure the safety of residents.’