Category Archives: Fire safety

Fire safety update

The Regulator of Social Housing has identified failures by Lambeth Council to meet statutory health and safety requirements relating to fire safety, gas safety and asbestos management. The regulatory notice can be read here.

Regarding fire safety, Lambeth Council was found by the regulator to have “a significant number of overdue remedial actions arising from fire risk assessments [FRAs].” The regulator considered Lambeth’s case to be a breach of the “Home Standard” because of the “breadth and scale of the failure” and the “longstanding nature of the issues”. The regulator concluded that Lambeth Council “did not have an effective system in place to allow it to manage the risk of tenant safety and meet its statutory health and safety responsibilities across a range of areas.”

The regulator acknowledges that improvements have been made over the last six months and that the council has “significantly accelerated the pace with which it is progressing on remedial works.”

Overdue actions from FRAs is something that PRERA became aware of for Palace Road Estate back in December 2018.

Earlier this year, PRERA brought concerns about these overdue actions to the attention of senior housing staff in Lambeth Council and the Cabinet Member for Housing. In May 2019, the council’s (Interim) Fire Safety Manager visited Palace Road Estate and was helping to see that pending actions were scheduled for implementation. PRERA has requested an update on the current status of actions arising from FRAs for Palace Road Estate. Once we have received this information, we will provide an update through this blog.

Ducavel House planning application

A resident of Ducavel House has contacted the committee to let us know that they have received a planning notice for works to Ducavel House. Details of the planning application can be found here. The works include:

  • Replacements of windows and entrance doors with white uPVC versions.
  • Replacement of the disintegrating boxing around the external pipework with white metal boxing.

The expiry date for the consultation is 23 September 2019.

The properties that are directly affected by this planning application – all flats in Ducavel House.

Fire safety update

Lambeth Council is required to perform Fire Risk Assessments (FRAs) of communal areas of its housing stock. The relevant legislation is the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order (RRFSO) 2005.

The blocks of flats on Palace Road Estate are covered by 10 FRAs which were performed between April 2017 and July 2018. Each FRA contains an action plan. This is a list of actions which are considered to be required to reduce fire risk or to maintain it at a tolerable level.

There are around 90 actions listed in the FRA action plans for Palace Road Estate. The actions have been assigned “priority action periods” (recommended timeframes for completion). These are “as soon as possible” (priority 1), within 1 month (priority 2), within 1-2 months (priority 3), within 2-6 months (priority 4) or long-term action to be taken – e.g. over a 1 to 3 year period (priority 5).

The majority of actions (around 80) were assigned priorities of 1 to 4. Given the dates when the FRAs were performed, these actions are due to have been completed by now.

In December 2018, the council informed us that over 45 actions / “deficiencies” coming from the FRAs for Palace Road Estate have not yet been performed. It therefore appears that around 40 actions are overdue (i.e. have exceeded the recommended timeframes specified in the FRA action plans).

PRERA is concerned that residents’ lives are potentially being put at risk by Lambeth Council’s failure to implement fire safety actions within the recommended timeframes.

We have been told that 26 of the pending actions have been placed in a long-term programme of works normally taking 2-5 years for completion. No justification has been provided for extensions to the recommended timeframes and no actual dates for completion of pending actions have been provided.

PRERA asked the council for the following information in August 2018. We are still waiting for a response:

  • A list of the actions specified in the actions plans in the FRAs for Palace Road Estate which have not yet been completed.
  • The dates when these actions will be completed.
  • The justification for extensions to the recommended timeframes specified in the FRA Action Plans.
  • For outstanding actions where the recommended timeframe for completion has been exceeded, we have also asked the council for evidence of “consultation with all stakeholders” and consideration of the “level of risk to relevant persons”. These activities are required by their own procedure (Fire Risk Assessment procedure, version 2.2, dated 19 June 2018, section 3.3).

PRERA has raised a complaint about the council’s failure to provide this information. A response to the complaint is due by 9th January 2019.

External condition report

Perhaps as a result of our request during the visit of Chuka Umunna MP to the estate, the council has carried out an inspection to see what work is required to renovate the external elements of the buildings. The report can be downloaded here.

The report says that the following work is necessary:

  • Total replacement of the roofs.
  • Replacement of windows, including patio/balcony doors.
  • Upgrading of doors to flats to meet fire safety standards.
  • Repairs to balconies, “including timber replacement and replacement or alternative glazing”.

This work, together with the necessary structural repairs, is estimated to cost in the region of £10.5 million. We have been told that this work will form part of Lambeth’s capital works programme over several years, starting in the 2019-2020 budgetary year.

Fire risk assessments

The council have provided us with copies of the fire risk assessments (FRAs) for the flats on the estate:

1-26 Bushell Close
27-38 Bushell Close
39-52 Bushell Close
Chalner House
Coburg Crescent 130-139
Despard House
Ducavel House
Ponton House
Baly House
10-11 Coburg Crescent
27-38 Bushell Close
39-52 Bushell Close

According to the council’s procedure (section 3.4), the blocks on Palace Road Estate appear to fall into a 3 yearly review cycle. The FRAs indicate a 2 or 3 yearly review cycle (depending on the block). The latest FRAs for some blocks were performed in February 2015 and so it appears that reviews are (over)due for some blocks.

The FRAs contain tables of actions towards the end of the documents. The more recent ones use a priority rating for the actions of 1-5. The FRAs  contain actions with priorities of 1 (ASAP, call H&S team direct from site); 2 (action recommended to be completed within 1 month); 3 (1-2 months); 4 (2-6 months) and 5 (long-term action e.g. over a 1 to 3 year period). Given the dates of the FRAs, most of the actions should now have been performed. We will therefore ask the council for an update on these actions.

Here is a summary of assessment dates by block and the priority levels of actions:

1-26 Bushell Close; 4/2/2015; L and M priority levels
27-38 Bushell Close; 21/2/2018; Priority 2, 3 and 4
39-52 Bushell Close; 21/2/2018; Priority 3 and 4
10-11 Coburg Crescent; 30/04/2017; Priority 5
130-139 Coburg Crescent; 17/2/2015; L and M priority levels
1-16 Chalner House; 8/05/2017; Priority 1, 2, 3 and 5.
1-30 Despard House; 9/2/2015; L and M priority levels
1-38 Ponton House; 2/6/2017; Priority 2, 3 and 4
1-38 Baly House; 3/04/2017; Priority 2
1-46 Ducavel House; 2/6/2017; Priority 2, 3 and 4

 

Fire safety in communal areas

Lambeth council has carried out a review of fire safety, following the disaster at Grenfell Tower. We have been sent a document titled “Communal Area Fire Safety Procedure” which applies to the flats on Palace Road Estate. It can be downloaded here.

Of particular interest will be the policy that “enclosed communal areas” are to cleared of all items and “open communal areas” can only be used to store (a) doormats and (b) plants in non-combustible containers. For more details, please see the document itself.