Southwark adopts Ledbury fire safety recommendations
THE BOROUGH council has adopted 18 recommendations regarding repair response and fire safety, after it was criticised for its repairs and recordkeeping at the estate.
The estate’s four buildings saw their gas supplies cut last August and certain residents evacuated as a consequence, with structural defects cited. Southwark council had said it was ‘confident’ on the tower blocks’ safety, with inspections discovering ‘urgent fire safety risks in dozens of flats that had been present, in some cases, for up to 30 years’, and type four ‘thorough and intrusive’ fire risk assessments were carried out by council fire safety officers.
A later report from safety experts Arnold Tarling and Sam Webb recommended the buildings should be demolished, while structural experts Arup recommended extensive strengthening works. Now, News Shopper has reported that the council has adopted 18 fire safety and repairs recommendations after an independent review of its handling of the issues at the Ledbury Estate. The council commissioned report ‘brought to light’ said issues concerning repairs and recordkeeping.
The report also made the recommendations on where processes can be improved, and cited Dame Judith Hackitt’s review of building regulations and fire safety, which ‘highlighted the absence of a Ledbury Estate safety audit’ that ‘went missing’ when the council purchased the blocks in the 1980s. Her report said this was evidence of ‘deep flaws in the current system’ of tower block safety, with the news outlet noting that most residents of these bocks ‘moved out’ last year amid collapse fears.
At a meeting of the council’s overview and scrutiny committee, Ledbury Action Group co founder Danielle Gregory said that the group welcomed the ‘thorough’ report, as it presented the ‘level of failure in responding to residents’ complaints and various matters of disrepair over the last 20 years or so’. These included 40,000 repairs raised for plumbing issues, or ’34 per week for the past 22 years’.
In response, Ferenc Morath, the council’s head of investment and asset management, commented that all of the recommendations ‘would be achievable’, with five ‘already completed’, and this would include – News Shopper added – ‘making sure repair delays were documented, and that key communication with contractors and residents was also saved, documented and registered’. He also said the council was ‘confident’ on its fire risk assessments, and that recordkeeping was ‘being improved with digitalisation’.
Repairs at the estate would be moving ‘in-house’ from October, with the council consulting with residents about the future of the blocks, ‘which could be demolished or refurbished’ after a cabinet report was published in October – at this point, residents ‘have the right to return’ to all four blocks. Mr Morath added of the recommendations: ‘There has been a lot of progress on a lot of these. Every single one of these is already in hand.
‘There have been a lot of records lost. We have tried to find everything we can, but rest assured everything that is coming through recently we have got, and it’s all stored digitally.’