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Fire Reports

Minutes of Berecroft Public Meeting, 16th October 2009 

Attending (on the panel): 

Bill Rammell MP

Cllr Lee Dangerfield

Chris Ellison (Managing Director, South Anglia Housing)

Mark Samuels (Harlow Fire Service)

Graeme Bloomer (Harlow Council)

Lewis Basford (Harlow Police)

Cllr John Strachan

Cllr Lorna Spenceley

(In the audience)

Cllr Sarah Dangerfield

Cllr Bob Davis

 

Meeting opened, the Chairmen thanked everyone for coming.

 

Bill Rammell MP: Started by saying it was good to see everyone here. Since the last meeting he has been working with Cllr Dangerfield to drive the process forward and get the answers that residents wanted. He was frustrated that it had taken so long to get the fire report, and placed the blame for this with the Chief Legal Officer of the Fire Service, who Bill had to force to release the document.

 Cllr Dangerfield: Confirmed that he was also very frustrated and requested that attendees should not shout when asking questions.

 Mark Samuels (Harlow Fire Service): Concerned by Bill Rammell’s remarks regarding the fire report, he will investigate further. He hopes to put peoples’ minds at rest and thanked Bill Rammell and Cllr Dangerfield for inviting him.

 Chris Ellison (South Anglia Housing): Echoed the comments of Mark Samuels and said he wanted to try and offer as much reassurance as possible. Chris reported that an independent fire management service had looked at the properties and could find no problems.

 He also said that stock condition checks had also taken place, with no specific risk identified. As part of this, fire alarm coverage had been checked.

 He recognised that the Fire Department had done a good job in containing the fire.

 Questions

 Q. People are saying there are no problems with the property but from the fire report [residents feel] there is clearly a problem with the roofs.

 A: Chris Ellison responded that all properties would pass building control. If lofts are filled with items it increases fire risk.

 Q. Is there a problem with the designs of the soffits?

 A: Confirmed by Mr Samuels that the design of these was common.

 Q. Several residents expressed concerns at the ‘fire walls’ in the property – that they were maintained incorrectly and were of poor design. It was suggested that it had been done on the ‘cheap’.

 A. Chris Ellison confirmed again that the buildings had passed planning control and recent checks.

 Q: If a problem with the design of the properties was identified, would South Anglia Housing pay the cost of repair for private owners?

 A: Chris Ellison confirmed that they would not.

 Q: It was asked whether the panel were sure that the propertied had passed regulations at the time of building?

 A: Graeme Bloomer (Head of Regulation at Harlow Council) confirmed that they had.

 Q: It was asked whether people in fire affected properties had been rehoused.

 A: Chris Ellison confirmed they had. Cllr Dangerfield said that they had not, and were still in temporary accommodation.

 Bill Rammell said that it had still not been fully determined whether there was anything wrong with the properties, and not enough assurance was being given.

 Q: Is there something intrinsically different about the properties which put people at risk, for example the roof or soffits.

 A: Mark Samuels confirmed that stripping the roof would reduce fire loading. However nothing could stop fire completely, whatever the design of property.

 Q: Cllr Bob Davis asked whether the Council would fund a report into all of the properties to allay residents’ fears.

 A: Cllr Dangerfield said he would proceed with this.

 Q: What is the difference between a deliberately started fire and an accidental one?

 A: Mark Samuels responded that the deliberate fire more likely to spread quicker.

 Cllr Dangerfield proposed a further meeting to discuss issues with South Anglia housing, and residents’ representatives were selected from the floor.

 Meeting closed.

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