Evacuated student block’s fire concerns raised months ago
THE KINGFISHER Court flats evacuated last week in Kirklees had been served with an enforcement notice by West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service (WYFRS) 10 months ago.
Huddersfield Examiner reported on the evacuation of the block after WYFRS served a prohibition order, and noted that ‘just months after’ the block was opened last year WYFRS had served it with an enforcement notice. That first notice had required the responsible person for the block to ‘take fire precautions to ensure employees’ safety’, and to take such precautions for relevant persons – the students – ‘as may reasonably be required in the circumstances’ to ensure their safety.
Students were given just three hours to leave, with some provided with temporary accommodation by Huddersfield University Student Union and by Kirklees Council. The company which built the block, Mederco, collapsed this year owing £152m in unpaid loans, and with the building set to stay closed until it can be made safe, WYFRS added that they had served the prohibition notice after receiving the results of a compartmentation survey.
A WYFRS spokesperson pointed out that the notice referred only to compartmentation, and not cladding. Shabir Pandor, council leader, stated that the council does not own the building and did not sign it off for occupation as ‘building control was carried out by a private contractor’.
He commented: ‘Developers do not have to go through the council for building control and in this case they chose to use a private company, meaning we did not sign off this development. Where issues are raised after building control has been signed off, as in this case, we will continue to work in partnership with the developers and other parties to help ensure that buildings are fit for purpose and meet the standards.
‘Through the Local Government Association, and the national Government, I will be bringing up the issue of the responsibilities of the private sector in this area. West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service found that this building puts people at risk so we fully support them in serving this notice. We’ve seen the horrific consequences of when issues like this go unresolved and this is something we cannot allow to happen in Kirklees.’
Councillor Bill Armer called for a review of building regulations, having asked for assurances about the building’s safety a a planning meeting three years ago, and added that safety issues have the potential to ‘fall through the cracks’ between planning permission being granted and building control signing off a property.
He said: ‘It’s a national matter rather than a Kirklees matter, to be fair. Planning looks at the aesthetics of materials. Building regulations look at their utility. It’s a bit crazy having that division. There is no Building Regulations Committee on Kirklees Council because it’s a technical thing. So building regulations have nothing to do with councillors. They are a law unto themselves. There are questions to be answered over this. It needs looking at.’