Westover ward councillors have called on Sedgemoor District Council and Homes in Sedgemoor to immediately put out a statement of re-assurance to tenants living in hi-rise blocks who are naturally concerned about safety following the tragic events in London at the Grenfell Flats where numerous people have lost their lives.
Bridgwater Town Council Leader Brian Smedley contacted the Chief Executive and the Leader of Sedgemoor District Council along with the Director of Homes in Sedgemoor on the morning of the disaster urging them to reassure residents and they subsequently put out the following statement.
Sedgemoor Safety Statement
“All our colleagues at Sedgemoor District Council and Homes in Sedgemoor were distressed to hear of the fire in London and our thoughts are with all those people who have been affected by this event.
In order to reassure the Council’s tenants and our customers in Sedgemoor, we can confirm that we have current and up-to-date fire risk assessments on all of our low rise blocks and our one 10-storey high rise block, Westfield House in Bridgwater.
Westfield house also has a full ‘double knock’ fire alarm system that has detection equipment inside the flats and in the communal areas. There is also a sprinkler system within the basement to cover the caged storage areas that are allocated to each flat. Both the fire alarm and the sprinkler systems are regularly serviced and maintained, with fire alarms and fire doors being tested every week.
We take the safety of all of our customers seriously. Within our communal spaces we have a ‘Clear Space’ policy to ensure that in the event of an emergency, people are able to evacuate the building quickly and safely, along a ‘protected route’. This also covers our duty to do all we can to ensure first responders and emergency services are able to carry out their duties without facing additional risks, from items stored or left in these spaces.
Homes in Sedgemoor also work very closely with the Somerset Fire and Rescue Service and have undertaken a number of exercises to make sure that in the event of an emergency the Fire and Rescue service is able to attend and deal with any issues in an effective and efficient manner. Following each exercise a full de-brief is undertaken to discuss lessons learnt and improvements that can be made. This is to ensure that our customers are well protected and we continue to look after their safety and welfare and that of their families and visitors.”
Cllr Smedley said “What the residents need immediately is reassurance. However, part of this process is to urgently review safety issues. The findings of the London incident will be crucial to what long term plans the authorities make to ensure such a tragedy doesn’t occur here. Here in Westover ward we have the only tower block in Somerset and this is surrounded by a number of 1960’s hi rise apartments, generally 4 storey, but residents are concerned enough to want questions answered. I have said to Sedgemoor District Council that I am prepared to take the issue urgently to the Scrutiny Committee for an immediate review and I believe doing this will be beneficial for all concerned and in particular provide much needed reassurance to the residents.”
West Street resident Jeff Rawles said “The ‘Stay Put’ policy needs reviewing along with assurances on the cladding of the buildings, the evacuation procedures and escape routes in the event of incidents. Residents are also concerned about the satisfactory completion of works by contractors, materials used, potential for updraughts”
Resident Roger Perren of Westfield Close, a 4 storey block, added “It may be worth pointing out that items such as not being able to hear the fire alarms, missing smoke detectors and pipe boxing’s which are not sealed have been raised and ignored by HIS on a number of occasions. Unlike some blocks we have a gas supply which all emanates from meters in the cage storage areas which is another reason why residents feel being able to hear the alarms is essential.”
Radz Isaacs of another 4 storey West Street hi-rise said “After seeing the events in london, i’m seriously considering fitting an internal sprinkler system in our flat. Considering the damage caused to the adjacent block to us in west street recently, it will put my mind at ease, would the council support and help or refuse to help?”
Carole Smith said “ I would sleep peacefully in my bed if we had sprinklers in the flat. I am sorry it’s going to cost money but all flats and maisonettes should have sprinklers fitted after today’s events.”
Matt Wilson added ” Independent electrical certification would help. I’ve found inadequate or out of date installations. Plus untested installations done by tenants etc. Problem with testers they will rush a property to get more done and more money. These things need doing properly.”
Another resident of the 10 storey Westfield House who didn’t wish to be named added “I don’t think much of this Stay Put policy. When the Fire Officer came and talked about it he said ‘I know where I’d be’ and I’d be straight out after him!”