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Fire meeting Minutes, 23rd Oct 2009

Attendees:

Z. Cheema (Chair)      Berecoft Residents Association

Bill Rammell                MP

Kate Diggory               MP’s Office

Chris Ellison                South Anglia Housing Association – Managing Director

David Richardson       South Anglia Housing Association – Asst. Director Property Services

Cllr Lee Dangerfield    Ward Councillor

Cllr Lorna Spenceley  Ward Councillor

Cllr John Strachan      Ward Councillor

Graham Branchett      Harlow Council – Strategic Director

Graeme Bloomer        Harlow Council – Head of Regulation

Jane Greer                  Harlow Council – Housing Strategy (taking notes)

Richard Greaves        Harlow Council – Building Control Manager

Liz Kitchen                  Berecroft Resident

Kevin Stocker             Berecroft Resident

Frank Alecks               Berecroft Resident

 

Agenda Item

Item

Action

1.

The meeting was opened by the Chair who explained that the purpose of the meeting was a follow up from the meeting held on 16th October 2009 and was specifically to discuss planning and design issues regarding the refurbishment of Berecroft properties.

 

2.

 

Minutes and Matters Arising from meeting held on 16th October 2009.

 

Errors and accuracy.

  1. Cllr John Strachan was in the audience at the above meeting.

2   Re question from Cllr Bob Davies – Cllr Dangerfield   stated that he had not committed the Council into funding a report into the safety of the properties. 

Chris Ellison stated that he did not agree with Cllr Dangerfield’s recollection of what had been said at the meeting.  Graeme Bloomer stated that his notes supported Cllr Dangerfield’s view.

 

3

Richards Greaves advised that the building regulation drawings showing the planned works to Berecroft were displayed.  He said that the work undertaken met the building regulations at that time.

 

 Members at the meeting took a closer look at the drawings and there was a general discussion regarding the nature of the work carried out.

 

Richard advised that only a sample of properties is looked at when assessing building regulations.  He went on to say that the builder is ultimately responsible. Richard clarified that there is not a list of the properties sampled.

 

Bill Rammell asked whether there is a signature to confirm the inspections completed.  Richard advised that there is.

 

The main area for concern is the loft firewalls and the insulation between the blocks and the roof; it was asked whether these areas had been sampled especially as some of the privately owned  properties do not have lofts.

 

Richard advised that only random sampling was undertaken but this would have been looked at.

 

It was confirmed that Harlow Council did legally transfer the properties before the works commenced and the building regulations had been signed off.

 

Cheema asked whether the work that had been undertaken at that time met building regulations.  Richard confirmed that they did.

 

Chris Ellison stated that the building contractor reports to an agent who also checks the buildings.

 

Bill Rammell wished to confirm that it is a check and not a legal requirement.

 

Ms Kitchen stated that we need to see plans to see if what was agreed is what residents got.

 

Mr. Stocker stated that for owners there will be a problem with insurance and they may not be able to obtain cover. Mr Alecks agreed and stated that the fire stop walls are not as shown in the diagram displayed. All Berecroft residents at the meeting agreed with this statement.

 

Bill Rammell said that the issues are that the transfer took place correctly and a completion certificate was issued, but as only a sample were inspected there seems to be a strong case that some properties do not comply with the building regulations at the time.  Richard stated that the builder is responsible for meeting the building regulations. 

 

Mr Stocker asked who oversees the builders.

 

Bill Rammell stated that if a builder has sign off, he has complied.  Mr Stocker said that if the properties were signed off we must assume the Council was happy.

 

Chris Ellison said that he would like to give assurance and that the main concerns of residents are the gap in the firewall and the Rockwool.  Chris went on to state that South  Anglia will survey all tenanted properties and  private properties if the owner consents.  If there is a liability i.e. the building work was defective at the time the work was completed, then South Anglia will undertake remedial works on all of the properties.

 

If the buildings were refurbished satisfactorily but have since suffered fair wear and tear, South Anglia will provide what assistance they can to private owners to help them to resolve the situation.

 

Cheema clarified Chris’ statement i.e. if building work was satisfactory when undertaken, South Anglia will assist private owners to help them get remedial work undertaken. However, if original work was defective South Anglia will take remedial action on the tenanted properties and those of private owners.

 

Chris stated that the priority is to give assurance and that the cost issue is something that South Anglia will bear.  If it’s down to wear and tear South Anglia is not responsible but will pass on repairs costs to owner occupiers at the lowest cost.

 

Cllr Lorna Spenceley clarified.  If it was a fault when buildings were refurbished South Anglia will rectify all properties, if it was not a fault they will not do so.  Richard stated that some elements will deteriorate in a fire e.g. Rockwool – it’s about giving time to evacuate safely and the overall factor of all parts of fire prevention measures need to be considered.

 

Mrs Kitchen asked about the sample checks and why properties were passed and what was checked.

 

Richard advised that it is in the discretion of the Inspector regarding what is sampled.

 

Bill Rammell stated that progress has been made today.

 

Cllr Lee Dangerfield said that progress is good – it’s what people are asking for.  Not everyone needs assistance but there is a high volume of elderly residents on the estate, and could extra support and advice be given to those living in bungalows.

 

Bill Rammell stated that South Anglia’s offer needs to be put in writing and residents advised as soon as possible.

 

Mr Alecks stated that some owners do not have loft hatches unless they paid for them.  Roof voids may be a danger as people do not know what is in them i.e. Mr Alecks alleged that he had a tree in his loft.  Mr Alecks asked how lofts were going to be inspected when there are no loft hatches.

 

 

Bill Rammell asked if the meeting could now focus on how to communicate South Anglia’s offer.

 

Chris Ellison advised that they could get a letter re: south Anglia’s intent today but they will not be able to give specifics.

 

Mrs Kitchen asked if it would go to owner occupiers as well.  Chris Ellison advised that it would.  Graham Branchett stated that the Councils role here is regulatory and so cannot be part of the investigation.  The Council cannot be named in the letter but Ward Councillors can, if they wish.  It is not appropriate for the Council to be involved.

 

Bill Rammell stated that this group (Council Officers excluded) is not responsible but can advise and oversee, and that the 3 Ward Councillors should be named in the letter going out to residents.

 

Cllr Lorna Spenceley asked whether her comments made on the first draft of the letter to residents had been taken up. 

 

Graham Branchett stated that he had comments to make as well and offered to work with South Anglia on the resident’s letter straight after the meeting.

 

Mr Stocker asked how the Rockwool was meant to be put in place.  Richard Greaves said that it is normally physically placed in a block and then cut to shape – it’s a loose fibre material.

 

Cllr Strachan advised that Inspectors can have a different view in difficult areas.  There are usually two different types of insulation – it should be compressed type material.

 

Cheema asked whether they could have some idea of timescales. Chris Ellison advised that he will do this as soon as possible but needed to obtain technical views on how the survey would be undertaken.

 

Cllr Lee Dangerfield asked whether it would be possible for some timescales to be given at the meeting on 27th October 2009.

 

 Bill Rammell said that the first letter needs to go out today.

 

Chris Ellison advised he would get a draft to signatories within 1-2 hours.  All signatories were agreeable with timescales.

 

Cheema stated that further meetings may be required once the findings are known.

 

Mrs Kitchen asked how it will be communicated to owners – i.e. who owners should contact for help.  Chris stated that contact details will be in the letter.

 

 

The meeting was closed

 

 

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