CityWest Homes: Maida Vale estate tenants angry at litany of issues raised by fire risk assessments
PUBLISHED: 07:30 25 October 2018 | UPDATED: 15:30 25 October 2018
Tenants in Maida Vale's Scottish Towers were furious to discover the CityWest Homes estate's most recent fire risk assessments detail a litany of "high and medium priority" issues that, almost a year later, have not been dealt with.
From fire doors that do not shut correctly to the lack of adequate escape routes from some flats in the buildings, the reports – from November 2017 – paint a worrying picture that tenants think puts the buildings, and their lives, at risk.
Paul, 52, a tenant in Falkirk House who has asked for his full name not to be printed, told this newspaper: “It’s hard to believe – the risk assessments show the blocks aren’t fit for purpose. If an arsonist were to come along, I’d be worried.”
Another tenant, George Allawi, 29, is hoping to form a residents’ association in order to help give those who live in Falkirk, Edinburgh and Glasgow Houses a voice.
He said: “The idea would be to build a network so we can deal with these issues together.
“The fire reports are pretty shocking. Lots of it is down to not having done the major works when they were due. It’s just another example of short-term fixes not being enough.”
Other issues outlined in the fire risk assessments for all three buildings include the following:
n The distance between some flats and the emergency exit staircase is up to 15m – twice the advised limit;
n Cable runs on the ceilings of corridors in the blocks were “not adequately clipped back with fire rated clips”;
n Some lower floor maisonette flats did not have fire exits at all;
n There was no emergency exit lighting;
n A “more intrusive” flat survey is required to establish whether or not vents and pipes within flats are fire-safe;
n Flat entrance doors and fire doors were found to be “a mixed standard”. The report recommends CityWest start a rolling programme of door repairs;
n Documentation was not available to illustrate the continued maintenance of the blocks’ dry risers, extinguishers, or emergency lighting.
Another – albeit lower priority –issue identified was fire exit signage, which was in some cases non-existent.
After being contacted by the Ham&High, managers this week had fire safety signs put up on the fire doors in the buildings.
For Paul and George, the fire doors – which are often blown open by wind channeled into the staircases – are a major issue.
Paul did his own research and told us that 31 out of 48 external emergency exit fire doors in the buildings do not close properly.
The fire risk assessment recommends that self-closing mechanisms be fitted to all fire doors, but this has not yet happened.
Paul said: “I’ve been around the three buildings and counted the ones that don’t shut properly.”
George added: “It’s frustrating that this has been allowed to happen. It’s a neglect of works over 10, 15 years.”
Both tenants also noted the reports seemed to ignore that the towers have disabled residents.
However, the town hall explained it adheres to national guidance, and risk assessments are undertaken for vulnerable residents.
The reports say high priority issues should be dealt with in three months, and medium priority in within a year.
Maida Vale councillor Geoff Barraclough said: “This is concerning. We would urge CityWest Homes to implement the recommendations in the report as soon as possible.”
A Westminster City Council spokesman said: “Our main priority is the safety of our residents – fire risk assessments have been completed and the blocks have been audited by London Fire Brigade in the last 12 months to assure residents are safe in their homes.
“We are taking further action following the recommendations from the current fire assessments to further improve building safety.”
The next fire risk assessment is due in November.
The council and CityWest Homes also confirmed reviews of fire doors were “an ongoing process”. They said the next major works project, due in 2019, would upgrade or replace fire doors where necessary.
CityWest Homes, which has been the arm’s length housing provider for Westminster since 2002, will be taken back into council control in April 2019 after an independent report criticsed the organisation’s “organisational culture” and “us and them” attitude towards residents.