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Fire safety top of the agenda for Council and South Essex Homes

Published Tuesday, 13th March 2018

Southessex Homes Logo

The Council’s Cabinet have received a fire safety update (Tuesday 13 March), hearing how the Council and South Essex Homes are taking a proactive approach to this important issue across the Borough.

Councillors will hear how South Essex Homes’ works to replace tower block front entrance doors, frames, communal doors and panels, with the highest specification products on the market as well as other fire safety works, are nearing completion, with the town centre estate blocks, Pennine and Quantock soon to be finished. This follows the Council bringing £2m of planned capital funding forwards into this financial year (see below).

The report confirms that the Council has also identified a further £1m of capital funding for a fire improvement programme over the next two years and a new building surveyor has been recruited to ensure compliance. Initial works on high priority council-owned buildings are expected to start on site in spring 2018, and these works will include fire door replacement and fire compartmentation works.

Councillors will discuss how Essex County Fire and Rescue Service (ECFRS) has also completed visits to every residential tower block over ten storeys in the Borough and is undertaking a similar exercise for all building of five storeys or higher. All Council and South Essex Homes buildings with smoke vents have been checked and it has been confirmed that the vents are operating correctly.

The report also confirms that private buildings, such as the hospital, University of Essex, hotels and other tower blocks, have all been contacted and where necessary follow-up letters and visits have taken place to confirm there are no issues. All Local Education Authority schools (non-academies or free schools) have up to date Fire Risk Assessments in place and we have written to all Academies to request confirmation that they have completed this information.

Cllr John Lamb, Leader of the Council, said: “Residents safety is a top priority for us and our partners. We know this work is vital and could save lives, so we hope that this detailed report shows the priority that we are giving to this issue.

“This is a wide ranging report, covering both day to day and wider improvements works. The Council and South Essex Homes, in consultation with Essex County Fire and Rescue Service, will be considering the role of sprinkler and other fire suppression systems, which will be informed by the findings and recommendations of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry and the independent review of building regulations.

“We are also doing day to day things such as ensuring risk assessments are up to date and liaising with private building owners and schools, and our emergency planning officer is planning an exercise to consider how the Council and its partners would evacuate a tower block in an emergency, and how they would provide accommodation for anyone affected.

“I am very pleased that the completion of fire safety works across our tower blocks are nearing completion, and that we are also able to confirm more capital funding to ensure our other buildings are safe and compliant with national regulations.”

Tower block fire safety works

Work at Pennine and Quantock blocks in central Southend-on-Sea has been undertaken by Smith O’Sullivan, a local company based in south Essex, and completes an ongoing fire safety programme managed by South Essex Homes since 2011.

The works across the Borough’s thirteen tower blocks consists of the upgrade of fire doors in communal areas, which are crucial in providing 1 hour protection to protect escape routes in the event of a fire. 

Other works include the renewal of resident’s front doors with a composite door that is ½ hour fire resistant and meets the Secured by Design standard, upgrade of fire protection partitions replacement of trunking to protect existing wiring and the painting of walls with fire resistant paint that reduces the spread of flames.

Roger Eastwood, Chair of the Board of South Essex Homes said: “Fire protection is always an important issue for South Essex Homes, and the work nearing completion at Pennine and Quantock has enhanced existing fire safety measures already in place across our tower blocks. We are pleased to be working in partnership with Smith O’Sullivan, who were selected following a tender process and are based in the local area which means we are supporting the local economy.”

Gary Bowles, Director of Smith O’Sullivan added “We have years of experience delivering fire upgrade programmes and once again are very happy to be working in Southend-on-Sea.”