Council committed to carrying out crucial fire safety checks on Southend tower blocks

A residents association has slammed Southend Council for taking more than six months to carry out extensive fire safety checks on high-rise tower blocks.

When the council’s coalition administration took control of the council in May last year, they promised to carry out the in-depth fire safety checks in several of the town’s high-rise tower blocks at a cost of £70,000.

But eight months on and the test have still not taken place and the council says residents will have to wait another “few months” before they happen.

Andy Bury, a member of the Balmoral Residents Association, called the delays “unacceptable” and said residents are being forced to live in homes they cannot be sure are safe.

“This is another month of living in a block of flats we aren’t sure is safe and I am pretty sure it isn’t. It is pushing the date back and back. I am sure if council bosses phoned me up and said get on phone to sort it, I could have someone willing to do the work within the week,” he said.

“It is unacceptable. The council is the landlord and they should be instructing South Essex Homes to get it done”.

Campaigners have been calling for the checks known as Type 4 fire risk assessments following the tragedy at Grenfell Tower in 2017 but the council previously refused because they can be destructive and involve examining materials that are inside walls.

The new administration was praised for making the work one of their top priorities.
Councillor Martin Terry (Ind), who oversees public safety, said: “We have been working to appoint fire engineers to carry out the level 4 fire assessments. This is in the final stages and we hope work will begin within the next few months.

“It’s worth repeating that the council’s buildings meet the regulatory standards that were in place when they were constructed, extended or altered.

“However, we wanted to carry out level 4 fire assessments to reassure our residents and because we have a duty to make sure our residents and visitors feel safe and secure at all times.”

In 2016, mum-to-be Khabi Abrey, 30, who was eight months pregnant, died in an arson attack in Grampian flats, Balmoral Road in 2016.

Campaigners say she may have survived is she had known her flat had a fire door but fire safety notices were missing.

An inquest into her death is due to take place in April.

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Steve Shaw

Local Democracy Reporter