Further fire safety issues discovered at housing association

Further fire safety issues discovered at housing association

KNOWSLEY HOUSING Trust (KHT), which had been downgraded after ‘major’ fire safety failures, had been given four extra enforcement notices for its tower blocks.

In August, KHT was downgraded to non compliant status by the Regulator of Social Housing (RSH) after ‘major’ failures of fire safety were discovered in its blocks. In June, Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service (MFRS) assessed Quarry Green Heights in Kirkby following the Grenfell Tower fire, and found that hundreds of residents in the blocks ‘were left at risk from fire for months’, KHT having ‘failed to complete fire safety work on time’.

MFRS warned in follow up letters that August and September of actions required, which KHT ‘failed to perform’. Among the actions required were repair of fire doors, better compartmentation between flats and ‘improved safety’ on rubbish chutes, while the RSH had also learned KHT ‘had a number of high-risk safety actions outstanding’ at other properties, which ‘potentially affected hundreds of tenants for a number of months’.

MFRS issued three enforcement notices to KHT last November, while an internal KHT audit found ‘systemic failure’ to comply with fire safety regulations. As a consequence, KHT was downgraded by the RSH to a G3 grading for governance in a regulatory judgement indicating ‘there are issues of serious regulatory concern’, with this the ‘first time a housing association has been deemed non-compliant on fire safety grounds’ since Grenfell.

The RHS stated in its judgement that ‘it lacks assurance that the board of KHT has been managing its affairs with an appropriate degree of skill, diligence, effectiveness, prudence and foresight’, and while ‘the immediate issues have been resolved’, it had uncovered ‘weaknesses in governance, and in the effectiveness of board oversight and scrutiny including incidents of inadequate reporting’.

In turn, services provided in KHT homes by other companies owned by parent group First Ark ‘were a contributing factor to the failings’. First Ark appointed a new group chief executive recently, while KHT underwent a board ‘shake-up’ as it develops a ‘comprehensive recovery plan’, with the RSH stating that both organisations have been ‘open and transparent’ as well as demonstrating a ‘commitment to putting things right’.

Now, Inside Housing has revealed that KHT has since been handed a further four more tower block enforcement notices by MFRS, after three notices for the Quarry Green Estate have been lifted. It confirmed to the news outlet that four further notices were issued for the Gaywood Green estate ‘shortly before’ the RSH published its judgement and ‘on the same day’ that KHT’s grading was placed under review.

A spokesperson said that the notices ‘were issued following KHT informing MFRS of the recommendations raised within the recently completed annual fire risk assessments’, and that safety concerns related to compartmentation. KHT had reported the notices to the RSH, and ‘round-the-clock’ patrols have been introduced alongside an evacuation strategy while the enforcement notices remain. Type three fire risk assessments have also been carried out after it received the notices.

Tony Cahill, executive director of KHT, said: ‘As soon as we received those enforcement notices we contacted [MFRS] and said can we meet you on site and read through the findings, and tell you about our proposals about the mitigating measures we put in place while we’re doing some compartmentation work.

‘And they came along, and they said they were happy with the work we were doing, they were happy with the mitigating measures, but they were going to issue us an enforcement notice for each block to make sure that the work was done in a timely manner.’