Thursday, 26 April 2012

West Ken: Fire safety risk exposed

Fairburn House, West Kensington
The West Kensington Estate is a fire risk. That's according to the Fire Brigade, who served this notice on H&F Council last year demanding five separate improvements, and now according to residents themselves. They were unaware of the Enforcement Notice which had been served on the Council, which they want to evict as a "rogue landlord" under new Big Society legislation, so went to check the buildings out themselves.

And found a further 62 failings. They have now written to the Borough Commander of Hammersmith & Fulham Fire Brigade, Steve Lumb, asking him to "..use your influence to persuade Hammersmith & Fulham Council to remedy these defects as quickly as possible."

The residents found 11 broken or missing door closers, 27 missing stair floor signs and 24 missing lift floor signs. The Fire Brigade themselves found that our Council had failed on multiple levels, including "Failure in the effective management of the preventive and protective measures", "Failure to provide and/or maintain adequate and clearly indicated emergency routes and exits that lead to a place of safety" and "Failure to ensure that the premises and any facilities, equipment and devices are maintained in an efficient state, in effective working order and in good repair". Serious stuff.

The residents have also asked Mr Lumb to advise on whether prosecutions may be appropriate in this case given the record of fire safety when it comes to tower block housing in London. That is a reference to fires like this one which claimed the lives of six people in Lambeth in 2009. 

Charlie Treloggan, former Mayor of H&F, a resident of Fairburn House and Board Member of West Ken & Gibbs Green Community Homes, told me yesterday: 
"Residents feel the Council has been running down the West Ken blocks to demoralise us as part of its plan to sell off the estates to a developer for demolition. The Council should stop dragging its feet and complete all the fire safety works much more quickly. People's safety is at stake." 
Clearly this latest development, worrying as it is, can't be seen outside the context of the ongoing battle between the Council and its residents over the future of the estate. The fate of the estate in reality is likely to be decided on May 3rd - a Ken win will likely result in the estate being saved, but a Boris re-election will most certainly result in the redevelopment going ahead. We've seen how this Mayor works with our Council

But in the meantime fire safety is far, far too serious an issue for there to be any doubt whatsoever about the standards of the properties. I humbly suggest our Council pulls its finger out, pronto.

FRIDAY UPDATE - The council have been in touch about this with a strong response. Here's what a spokesperson told me this morning:
“The safety of our residents is this council’s primary concern and we work hand-in-hand with the Fire Brigade to ensure that all our blocks comply with the very strictest of safety standards.

"The council has now carried out a whole raft of fire safety improvements from the first floor to the tenth floor at Fairburn House and Churchward House on the West Kensington estate. Further improvements to the ground floors of both blocks are planned, and will be completed as a matter of urgency.

“During the last year, we have become one of the only local authorities in London to have carried out fire risk assessments to all of our blocks. A programme to address items identified has been produced and £1.7million set aside in this year's budget to finance the work.”

3rd MAY UPDATE -  The local press have only just caught up with this story here - you know where you read it first folks

1 comment:

  1. Wow, great article, I really appreciate your thought process and having it explained properly, thank you!"