Range of fire safety risks found at London flats

Range of fire safety risks found at London flats

NEW CAPITAL Quay in Greenwich, opened in 2013, has been found to have ‘multiple’ fire safety issues as well as cladding that failed government safety tests.

The Guardian reported on the issues at the 11 block complex of buildings, which are home to around 2,000 people. In total, ‘more than a dozen’ fire safety concerns have been identified, not including the fact that the buildings are clad with cladding panel combinations that failed the government’s fire safety tests. A series of issues were first found by fire officials, but a deficiency notice was issued last month for all 11 blocks by the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA).

In the weeks after the Grenfell Tower fire, issues found at New Capital Quay included defective fire doors, missing fire stopping, ‘dangerous’ fire escapes and holes in plasterboard meant to act as compartmentation for flats to ‘stop the spread of flames and smoke’. The LFEPA investigation meanwhile identified 16 fire safety concerns in total, including a ‘lack of arrangements’ for evacuating vulnerable and elderly residents.

Also, an ‘ineffective maintenance regime’, a broken firefighting lift and a broken fire hydrant outside one of the blocks were mentioned, with LFEPA stating that the ‘procedures to be followed in the event of serious and imminent danger to relevant persons are inadequate’, with residents sharing their concerns on being trapped in a fire.

One resident, Simone Joseph, stated that there had been three fires in her block since she had lived there, and added: ‘To know that seven months down the line we are living in this property with this cladding is upsetting. People have been cutting corners for so many years and are putting people’s lives at risk and they have to be held accountable.’

The Guardian added that with the 1,000 homes, New Capital Quay is believed to ‘be one of the biggest single private housing developments in the country discovered to have flammable cladding’, with a fire warden patrol installed once this was revealed, though residents were again concerned that wardens were ‘still in place’.

One woman told Greenwich Council that ‘we simply do not feel safe living in buildings with defective cladding that could rapidly go up in flames while we are sleeping’, while 30 fire marshals continue to patrol the 11 buildings for 24 hours a day at a cost of £25,000 per week. Galliard Homes, ‘one of Britain’s biggest housebuilders’, constructed the complex, and responded that some of the defects last year ‘had been addressed’, and that there had been ‘no issue with missing fire-stopping material, just an error during the inspection’.

It added: ‘Totally unlike Grenfell, NCQ was built and still has full and proper fire precautions with fire doors, fire-stopping, fire alarms, smoke-extract systems and no gas in apartments. The block at NCQ which has the most cladding has a full sprinkler system throughout.’

In turn, three of the 16 issues raised by LFEPA, Galliard said, were ‘not true’, and it questioned another two of the issues, while on whether residents were safe, it said LFEPA ‘was the leading expert’, and noted that ‘they have the statutory power to issue notices to evacuate the homes. They have to date decided not to do so’.

Residents were also worried they would have to pay the estimated £20m to £40m bill, or around £20,000 to £40,000 per flat, to ensure safety, while they also face a £1.25m bill for the ‘round-the-clock’ fire warden patrols. A particular issue was ‘how difficult it is to get information’, with residents forced to use a freedom of information request to ‘uncover’ the fire safety notices from London Fire Brigade (LFB).

Galliard is also planning to sue warranty and insurance provider the National House Building Council (NHBC), centring on the issue of ‘who pays for cladding that was certified as compliant with building regulations at the time of installation’, but since Grenfell have ‘been deemed to have failed fire safety rules’.