Response to residents’ safety at Lowestoft tower block after Grenfell fire was effective, committee says
- Credit: Nick Butcher
A council's response to the safety of residents at its Lowestoft tower block following the Grenfell tragedy was timely and effective, a committee has said.
Waveney District Council's overview and scrutiny committee discussed in detail the steps taken by the council at St Peters Court in the wake of the London fire, and the action plan that is now in place to improve safety further.
Work has been ongoing at the 16-storey residential tower block following the Grenfell fire in June, with plans announced to install a £200,000 sprinkler system to provide further reassurance for residents.
The committee was asked by the cabinet to consider whether the council's response had been timely and proportionate, whether there was adequate and effective communication with residents and whether the council has an action plan that is pertinent and comprehensive and delivers actions in a timely manner.
Councillors agreed on all three recommendations, with four abstentions on the final point.
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However questions where asked about whether safety issues raised in the 2015 fire risk assessment report had been addressed, and why those actions had not been followed up with another assessment in 2016. The latest assessment was carried out in July this year, warning the consequences for life safety in the event of a fire would be 'extreme harm'.
Councillor Louise Gooch said: 'The 2015 report makes substantial recommendations for alterations. These are not minor and in terms of it giving a full picture of action which needed to be taken to mitigate the fire risk and the danger that would ensue, this is really a catalogue of disasters and the overall conclusion is that it's a substantial risk and it still says that on the 2017 report. So I really don't understand why this was not flagged up for another review the following year.'
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Paul Goodman, from Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service, told councillors that although it was recommended to carry out an assessment every year, there was no legal requirement.
Councillor Graham Elliott recommended that the council look to install one-hour fire doors when replacing the current doors at the building instead of the planned half an hour doors, and councillor Sonia Barker asked that more proactive updates were given to all councillors about work on the sprinkler system, fire inspections and action plans, with both suggestions backed by the committee.
Despite sending letters and agendas out to each flat at St Peters Court and inviting residents to nominate two people to speak at the meeting, there were no representatives from the tower block.
Mark Bee, leader of Waveney District Council, said: 'If there had been a real problem or concern this room would have been full of tenants tonight who would have wanted to make their views known.
'I think the world post 2017 and the Grenfell Tower tragedy will be very different to the world before that when we look at the level and degree of safety that there is. It's always been taken very seriously, but now there is an added need for even more reassurance and that's why as an authority we were more than happy to accept the fact that a sprinkler system needed to be put in.'