Council defends Southend tower block fire safety measures

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Stringent fire safety checks have been undertaken in tower blocks, Southend Council bosses insist following criticism.

A fire safety expert has claimed that checks following the Grenfell disaster and the tragic death of Khabi Abrey were not up to scratch.

Pregnant Khabi Abrey died in 2016 in an arson attack at Balmoral flats, Westcliff.

Mrs Abrey, 30, died in 2016 with her unborn baby after an arson attack in the Balmoral flats in Westcliff.

Type four fire assessments have taken place in tower blocks since, with work including destroying parts of walls and detailed inspections.

Lengthy reports on the findings usually follow, according to Phil Murphy from Manchester-based HRRB Fire Safety Management. However. he raised concerns inspections “appear to only be type three.”

Anne Jones, councillor responsible for communities and housing, said: “The council, along with South Essex Homes, takes the safety of our residents very seriously and we strongly refute the suggestion.

“We commissioned Type 4 Fire Risk Assessments, the methodology of which was established by an external fire consultants, and all works were undertaken by experienced and qualified individuals.

“The reports and subsequent action plans have been published and it clearly states the flats which were assessed and investigated, which due to the nature of the intrusive work undertaken, took place in vacant properties with repairs made.”

In the Malvern tower block 11 empty flats had “intrusive” inspections and eight in Grampian flats. Reports on both blocks merely noted “compartmentation (sic) in the building appeared to be adequate as far as could be ascertained”, and recommended changes to extraction systems connecting bathrooms in the blocks.

After studying the reports Mr Murphy said: “A Type 4 fire risk assessment has the same scope of work as a Type 3 fire risk assessment, except that there is a degree of destructive inspection, in both the common parts and the flats, carried out on a sampling basis.

“They come with a very detailed report from the engineer saying what they found. I’m not convinced by these reports as there is no detail about compartmentation.

The reports are normally weighty documents that establish compartmentation and have it nailed down, not “it appeared to be adequate”.

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter