Could this block of flats in Milton Keynes be the next Grenfell fire tragedy?
Milton Keynes' own Grenfell Towers '˜lookalike' block of flats had a fire safety enforcement notice slapped on it a year ago - and the work is STILL not complete, the Citizen can reveal.
Now, in the wake of the London tragedy, the 110 households in Bletchley’s Stephenson House are worried their lives are in similar danger.
The nine-storey block, which even has the same plastic-type cladding as Grenfell, raised concerns among experts at Bucks Fire and Rescue Service in June last year.
They issued an enforcement notice to the management company to carry out urgent improvements to smoke detectors, alarms, and escape routes.
The notice also ordered emergency lighting to be provided along all exits.
“In the event of danger, it must be possible for persons to evacuate the premises as quickly and safely as possible,” it warned.
This week a Bucks Fire spokesman confirmed the enforcement notice was still ‘live’ as the work had not been completed.
But he said the outstanding concerns were not severe enough to warrant an evacuation of the building.
Many residents, however, are not placated, particularly as there was a small fire in the cladding from a discarded cigarette only weeks ago.
One resident said: “It’s scary knowing we’re living several floors up in a building that fire safety experts are unhappy with. We want the work finished.”
Most of the Stephenson House flats are rented, some through housing associations.Others are privately owned or bought through shared ownership schemes.
But, due to the building’s tangled history, many residents are not even sure who is responsible for maintenance.
The former office building, once Abbey National HQ, was converted into flats ten years ago for a developer called Remitone.
But last November Remitone hit financial problems and receivers from a company CBRE Ltd were appointed.
A CBRE spokesman said: “The block manager has been working with the Buckinghamshire Fire Officer to resolve the issues raised in the enforcement notice .”
The ‘block manager’ is understood to be a Mr Ashwinkumar Amin, from a called Stephenson House Management 2015 Ltd.
An enforcement notice said: “The responsible person must ensure the premises are equipped with appropriate fire-fighting equipment and with fire detectors and alarms... Emergency routes must be provided with lighting.”
Less than two months ago Stephenson house suffered a blaze after a cigarette end got stuck behind the cladding..
Some 30 firefighters rushed to the scene to extinguish the fire.
A Bucks Fire spokesman said: “A significant number of cigarette ends had accumulated as a result of people disposing of them out of their flat windows. The cigarette ends had been blowing under the join in the roof and sitting under the building’s cladding, raising the risk of a fire in the cavity wall.”
A Bucks Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said the length of time to comply with enforcement notices was judged on a case-by-case basis and reflected the amount of work involved.
He told the Citizen: “The safety of the public is always our priority and if ever we have serious concerns we will consider issuing a prohibition notice.
“This was not deemed necessary as the occupants were assessed as being safe during the remedial actions.”
The councillor responsible for city housing is calling for a thorough investigation into the safety of Stephenson House.
Councillor Nigel Long wants the cladding to be examined in detail to discover whether it is made of the same material that caused fire to spread so rapidly at Grenfell Towers.
He is also calling for all the necessary fire safety work to be carried out as soon as possible.
Receivers CBRE said this week they are reviewing both the design and installation of the cladding system, which is pictured being installed during the conversion work in 2007.
They pointed out that the cladding did NOT form part of the enforcement notice issued last year.
Resident safety is at the forefront of this action,” said a CBRE spokesman.
Mr Long said: “ I am deeply concerned about Stephenson House. I am seeking clear evidence that the block is safe, both in terms of the cladding and in terms of the residents’ safety .”
“I believe it is very important that the Fire and Rescue service go back and inspect the building. They must show that the 7 grounds of concern in their original assessment have been met. They also have to address the concerns of residents who are worried about the block.