Further fire safety concerns at Liverpool student block

Further fire safety concerns at Liverpool student block

INSPECTORS FROM Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service (MFRS) will return to the Paramount block after it appeared on a BBC Panorama investigation.

Liverpool Echo reported on the move after the BBC Panorama episode, with MFRS stating that it would ‘make arrangements’ to revisit the Paramount building after an expert raised fire safety concerns in the programme. Around 150 students live at the unfinished site, which had previously been found to be safe for habitation by MFRS and Liverpool Council, and both maintained that the occupied part of the site is still safe.

The structure forms part of a series of multi million pound projects in the city, with the programme looking at ‘failed development schemes’ and their ‘potential loss of millions to investors’. Questions had previously been raised by Liverpool Echo as to the safety of the project, with the site due to open in 2015 but ‘most of it is still a concrete, scaffolding-clad shell’. Developer Pinnacle said the project stalled after contractor PHD1 Construction collapsed, with administrators called in earlier this year.

In regards to the Paramount, Northumbria University’s senior lecturer for architecture and built environment Minnie Fraser expressed her concerns about the habitability of the site. She stated that ‘I would be very concerned that students are living in there, there’s so much flammable material there that a fire could easily start and take hold and spread quite quickly’, adding that on looking at site materials and machinery lying unattended, in her belief this highlighted ‘dreadful site practice’.

MFRS, in response, told the programme that it would arrange for a safety inspector to return, with the service confirming a further inspection would take place but maintaining its stance over the site’s safety in occupied areas. A spokesman said: ‘Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority (MFRA) had received a number of complaints regarding Fire Safety Standards at Paramount House Student Accommodation, London Road, Liverpool.

‘Many of the complaints have been received from companies and other parties connected with the construction and design of the building, that maintain that they were not paid for their work; estimated in millions of pounds. MFRA have thoroughly investigated the complaints and conducted inspections of the premises under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order (RRFSO) 2005.

‘MFRA is the Enforcing Authority under RRFSO for those areas of the premises that are occupied; the remaining areas that are still under construction are outside the responsibility of MFRA. The findings of the inspections are that although the premises have not been fully completed, the occupied areas of the premises are broadly compliant with the Fire Safety Order. Arrangements have been made to re-inspect the building.’

Additionally, a spokesperson for Pinnacle’s parent company today said: ‘Before each individual unit can complete and be considered fit for residential use, the buyers must be issued with a practical completion certificate. This requires sign off that the building is up to specification by the employer’s agent, and approval that the building is finished and safe by building control and the fire authority.

‘All such sign offs were in place for each of the completed units of The Paramount development before any residents moved in. The builder of the development, PHD1, then fell into administration, and as a result building control and the fire authority conducted additional checks and recommended some remedial works.

‘These were immediately actioned when required. At no point did building control or the fire authority feel there was a need to temporarily remove residents from the property and we cooperated with all authorities every step of the way.’

Administrators Quantuma added: ‘The administrators have been working with agents, health and safety experts and insurers to ensure that the premises is safe and compliant with current regulations. This has been complicated by the part- occupation of the site, the fact that other parts of the site are not weather-proof and the length of time since work ceased on the project, now over two years.

‘We are working with the Buyers’ Company and investors in general to identify the best strategy for completing a build out.’