Company ordered to pay £220k for putting staff and guests at Milton Keynes hotel at serious risk of fire

Campanile Hotel in Fenny Stratford operated without a functioning fire detection and alarm system for six weeks

Friday, 24th April 2020, 4:15 pm

The company behind one of the largest hotel groups in Europe, and one of its operations directors, have been fined a total of £220,850 for serious breaches of fire safety regulations which put staff and guests at serious risk.

Milcardar Ltd, which runs the Campanile Hotel, Penn Road, Fenny Stratford – part of the Louvre Hotel Group – and Mark Aldridge, director of operations, appeared before Aylesbury Crown Court yesterday (Thursday, April 23) for sentencing in connection with offences brought under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the hearing was conducted virtually via Skype.

Campanile Hotel in Fenny Stratford (Google)

Milcardar Ltd was ordered to pay full costs, £33,828,to Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service (BFRS), whose officers were thanked and commended by His Honour Judge Sheridan for their prompt response and attention to the initial fire safety complaint, which resulted in the prosecution being brought.

The defendants had previously pleaded guilty to a total of nine offences when the case was heard on January 16, 2020.

His Honour Judge Sheridan commented there were corporate and management failings, which fell far short of appropriate industry standards. However, the level of fines imposed were dramatically reduced due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on Milcardar’s ability to trade.

Buckinghamshire & Milton Keynes Fire Authority pursued the case after discovering the 80-bedroom hotel had continued to operate (at up to full capacity) for six weeks, from June to August 2018, despite having no functioning fire detection and alarm system.

On August 5, 2018, a guest staying at the hotel noticed a plastic cover had been placed over the smoke detector in their room. The following day the guest realised that the same plastic covers had been placed on all of the detectors in the stairway and corridors on the first and second floors. After failing to get a satisfactory response from the hotel reception, the guest complained to BFRS.

An operational response crew was mobilised to the hotel to investigate the complaint. As well as smoke detection being disabled, firefighters established that the fire alarm panel itself was inoperative and without power, leaving the hotel without any functioning fire detection or alarm system.

Further investigation by specialist fire safety inspecting officers resulted in a prohibition notice being issued on August 7, 2018. The notice required immediate closure of the fully occupied hotel and the evacuation of all guests.

The notice was lifted on August 10, 2018, after a new fire alarm system had been installed. However, an investigation and audit undertaken by BFRS fire safety inspecting officers established a history of fire safety failings. This included information that the hotel had continued to operate and take guests, even though engineers had condemned the hotel’s 20-year-old alarm system in October 2017.

Area Commander Dave Norris, Head of Service Delivery for Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service, said: "The safety of the public is our primary concern, and it is not unreasonable for any hotel guest to expect the basic standards of protection from fire. Where fire safety is not treated seriously by companies, or when company directors neglect their responsibilities, we will take the appropriate course of action which in the most serious cases may result in prosecution.”