Tower blocks in Milton Keynes NOT up to standards to stop fire spreading

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Two council flat tower blocks in Milton Keynes are not up to the standards now expected to prevent the risk of smoke and fire spreading, according to latest inspection.

Mellish Court, in Bletchley, and The Gables, in Wolverton, have been placed under a 24-hour warden service operated by Buckinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service (BFRS) as a 'proactive' safety precaution.

The safety measures mean trained officials are on hand at both blocks at all times to evacuate the buildings, particularly more vulnerable residents, just in case a fire breaks out.

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This comes after MK Council (MKC) said it carried out thorough inspections of both of its tower blocks ahead of expected changes in government regulations on tall buildings, and in response to a small recent fire at The Gables.

Mellish Court, Bletchley. Photo: Google MapsMellish Court, Bletchley. Photo: Google Maps
Mellish Court, Bletchley. Photo: Google Maps

The inspections involved stripping back walls in empty properties to assess and understand the quality and suitability of the buildings, working jointly with industry experts and BFRS.

The findings from September 2020, according to MKC, show that in the event of a fire, both of these buildings, which were constructed in the 60s, have not been built to the standards now expected to prevent the risk of smoke and fire spreading between flats and floors.

MKC's Emily Darlington said: “We’re working closely with BFRS and have taken precautionary steps in the best interests of our residents. We will continue to listen to residents’ views as we bring forward options for the future of these buildings.”

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Phill Mould, from BFRS, said that across Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes there are a number of high-rise residential premises, where the owners or those in control are responsible for maintaining the building and resident safety.

The Gables, Wolverton. Photo: Google MapsThe Gables, Wolverton. Photo: Google Maps
The Gables, Wolverton. Photo: Google Maps

He said: “BFRS is the enforcing authority for premises regulated by the Regulatory Reform (Fire safety) Order. Our ultimate goal is to ensure that any premises not complying with current fire safety standards are remediated and brought up to the required standards.

“In complex premises, it can take a significant amount of time and investment to undertake the required works. The introduction of a 24-hour warden service is a significant interim control measure, which will help with the early detection of a fire and initiate the evacuation of the entire premises.

“The risk of a fire breaking out has not increased, and of course this risk can be reduced by everyone continuing to take sensible fire safety precautions, such as being careful when cooking, smoking, using candles and cooperating with any fire safety measures introduced.

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“We will continue to work with Milton Keynes Council to ensure the continued safety of all residents.”

According to MKC, the wardens are in addition to the council’s latest planned improvement works which include the installation of the remaining fire doors and surrounds and higher quality smoke detection alarms at the blocks.

Council officers have today (Monday, October 12) been out speaking with residents at both Mellish Court and The Gables to set out the precautionary measures the council is undertaking and ensure that residents know how to stay safe.

MKC said assessments have indicated that the work required to bring the ageing buildings up to the standards now expected for the long-term will not provide value for money. The council said it is considering the future of the tower blocks and will speak with residents to hear their views.

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If the plans are to rebuild the blocks, it will not happen immediately. If this is the case, both The Gables and Mellish Court will form part of the council’s estate renewal and regeneration plans.

A formal council decision is expected within four to eight weeks.

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