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KNOWSLEY TOWERS: Block owners left residents at ‘risk of serious harm’

KNOWSLEY TOWERS: Block owners left residents at ‘risk of serious harm’

Image: LDRS

Owners of two tower blocks in Kirkby put residents “at imminent risk of serious harm” by failing to act on fire safety concerns, Knowsley Council has said.

Residents of Beech Rise and Willow Rise were left “very worried” after learning the council was taking emergency action to make the blocks safe earlier this week.

A notice posted on the doors of the two blocks, at Parklands in Roughwood Drive, said the fire service had found a “category 1 hazard” in the buildings that posed “an imminent risk of serious harm to the health or safety” of residents.

Those hazards included “poor fire compartmentation” and dangerous cladding, with Merseyside Fire and Rescue only stopping short of issuing a prohibition notice on the blocks because the council stepped in to provide a 24-hour waking watch.

Had the fire brigade issued a prohibition notice, residents would have had to leave their homes due to the fire risk.

One resident, Michael Jones, said: “It’s absolutely shocking the council has had to step in considering over £302,000 has been spent on fire safety in the block.

“The residents are all left in the dark by the management company, no communication at all. This is a very worrying time for all the residents of Parklands.”

According to a council spokesperson, the owners of the two buildings – Parklands (Kirkby) Management Company – had not only failed to take action to deal with fire hazards, but had not even engaged with the fire service about the risks, despite charging leaseholders £302,000 for fire safety works in 2019.

The spokesperson said: “Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service informed us of their intention to serve a prohibition notice due to the lack of fire safety/prevention measures within the buildings and the owner’s failure to take action or even engage with the fire service.

“The prohibition notice would have required residents to vacate the buildings if safety measures were not introduced immediately, so the council took the decision to utilise its powers under the Housing Act to intervene and put in place a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week waking watch, reassuring residents that they can stay in their homes.”

Waking watches are notoriously expensive, with the average cost of a watch running to more than £11,000 per month. Knowsley Council has said it will pay for the watch and then seek to recover the costs from the buildings’ owners.

The council spokesperson added: “Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service have commended the Council for its proactive approach and the support given to both the Fire Service and more importantly the residents affected by the lack of action from the building owner.”

Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service is also said to be pursuing fire enforcement action against the towers’ owners.

A fire service spokesperson said: “Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service have identified serious safety concerns at Beech Rise and Willow Rise with regard to poor fire compartmentation and cladding.

“We have completed fire safety audits in the buildings and ensured our operational risk information is maintained and kept current.

The spokesperson added: “Our paramount concern is the safety of residents and we will do everything within our power to ensure their safety.

“Knowsley [Council] has funded a waking watch to ensure that residents are safe in the short term, but the issues identified must be addressed urgently. We will continue to work closely with Knowsley [Council] to keep residents informed and make efforts to engage with the building management and owner.”

Neither Parklands (Kirkby) Management Company nor the buildings’ managing agents could be reached for comment.

Words: Chris McKeon, Local Democracy Reporter

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