Most Hampshire buildings checked were ‘unsatisfactory’

Most Hampshire buildings checked were ‘unsatisfactory’

IN ANOTHER release of Home Office data from Hampshire, the ‘majority’ of public buildings and flats audited by Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service (HFRS) were deemed ‘unsatisfactory’.

Last week, Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service figures showed three quarters of flats and public buildings in the county were ‘failing to meet fire safety standards’. It had carried out 1,662 fire safety audits in 2018/19, of which 72% or 1,194 were ‘unsatisfactory’, with buildings ‘much more likely to be failing to meet safety standards than those in other parts of the country’.

The national figures for England stated that 49,327 audits were undertaken in 2018/19, ‘virtually unchanged’ from the year before but 27% fewer than five years before, with two thirds of the 2018/19 audits satisfactory, a ‘similar proportion’ to previous years. Shops were the most common type audited with 18% of the total, followed by care homes with 14% and purpose built flats with 13%.

FRSs issued 14,514 informal notices in 2018/19 for improvements, alongside 2,390 formal notices, with the number of the latter rising from 2,025 in 2016/17 and 2,239 in 2017/18. This last year’s formal notices included 1,479 enforcement notices, 775 prohibition notices, 91 alteration notices and 45 prosecutions.

These audits cover non domestic buildings as well as communal areas of residential buildings, and that it was up to FRSs to decide how many audits are undertaken per year ‘based on their own risk-based inspection programme’, meaning that ‘higher levels of unsatisfactory audits may be due to a plan targeting higher-risk buildings’.

Daily Echo has now reported on the data from HFRS, which found that the ‘majority’ of such properties audited failed to meet standards, with 530 of 923 or 57% of audits marked as ‘unsatisfactory’. Checking such locations took up 16 weeks of crews’ time, with tasks including contacting property owners and managers as well as on site visits and enforcement action.

In total, 69 written warnings were handed out in 2018/19, and 33 formal notices that comprised one enforcement notice, 16 prohibition notices and 16 orders ‘to tell firefighters of changes that may raise the fire risk in the building’. Post audit, 58 premises were upgraded to ‘satisfactory’, and HFRS head of operations Rob Cole stated: ‘We take our responsibility of enforcing the Fire Safety Order seriously.

‘The outcome of a fire safety audit can be ‘unsatisfactory’ for a number or reasons ranging from not having adequate records of fire alarm testing to not producing a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment. These would usually require an action plan to be agreed with the responsible person. We have a range of powers to enforce fire safety legislation which could include prohibition on the property in the case of serious offences.”

A Home Office spokeswoman added: ‘Fire and rescue services have the resources they need to do their important work and overall will receive around £2.3 billion in 2019-20. Fire and rescue authorities must have in place a risk-based inspection programme to ensure buildings comply with fire safety standards. It is for individual fire and rescue authorities to decide what inspections are necessary, based on their assessment of local risk.’