FRA results cause concerns for residents
WALTHAM FOREST Council has moved to reassure tower block residents in the borough after fire risk assessments (FRAs) suggested there were ‘fire safety concerns’.
Guardian Series reported on the details from the FRAs undertaken by the council, and accessed via freedom of information requests, that identified Northwood Tower, John Walsh Tower and Fred Wigg Tower as the ‘top three most dangerous buildings in the borough’. The results were publicised by other publications including Waltham Forest Echo and Your Local Guardian last month, with the council now responding to residents in Northwood Tower, the borough’s tallest block.
The council’s statement referred to ‘recent misleading media reports’ and ‘articles in local newspapers [which] contain misunderstandings and inaccuracies’, but a council spokesperson later clarified that the criticism were ‘levelled’ at blogger Nick Tiratsoo, and that it took issue with ‘some assertions’ in one of his articles - LBWF and fire hazards in its housing stock: the appalling case of Northwood Tower in Walthamstow, posted on his blog Waltham Forest Matters.
Its statement added: ‘We would like to reassure residents and the wider community on fire safety at Northwood Tower, Walthamstow, following recent misleading media reports. Northwood Tower is a safe and secure building that provides a decent home for its residents. Several recent articles in local newspapers contain misunderstandings and inaccuracies that will cause unnecessary concern for residents, and we must put that right.’
The spokesperson noted FRAs are carried out annually, with 57 of 65 faults in Northwood Tower’s last inspection resolved, while none outstanding posed a ‘critical risk’ to residents. Mr Tiratsoo had compared FRAs from 2015 and 2018 for the Tower, and found the remaining six faults included electrical installations ‘that weren’t in good visible condition’; no system for regular collection and disposal of rubbish and combustible waste; and fire doors that ‘did not provide adequate resistance’.
In response to whether council concerns were legitimate, Mr Tiratsoo stated that he ‘did not’, adding: ‘I don’t understand why they’re suddenly saying that, [the article] is very careful in what it says, I stand by what I’ve said absolutely. Either [the company carrying out the FRAs] got it wrong, or the council didn’t do anything. There are very serious errors that remain unaddressed, for those two and a half years [between FRAs] nothing was done. They’ve been caught with their pants down.’
He added that he had ‘not been directly contacted’ by the council to be made aware of any factual errors in his article ‘despite the fact he states he is happy to make any necessary corrections at the top of his web page’. The council retorted that past FRAs have been limited to visual inspections, but that it is now moving to a system of ‘more in-depth analysis’, with FRAs for 2019 currently underway and Northwood Tower’s individual assessment to be completed this month.