New flats require "urgent" fire safety repairs

7 August 2019

The flats in Leith Walk in Edinburgh ‘don’t meet fire safety rules’, with steel beams in the Engine Yard development requiring ‘extra protection’ and ‘emergency repair work’.

Edinburgh Live reported on the ‘urgent’ work at the £75m development, with its developers informing the city council’s building standards department that 47 of the 60 flats in one block of the development ‘are affected’. The crux of the work is to ‘upgrade steel beams that do not meet fire safety regulations’, with building owners Places for People told to increase 24 hour management presence and install a mobile fire alarm station on each floor.

This was expected to take five to six weeks to complete, with a letter to be sent to tenants warning them that ‘steelwork forming the structure of your building needs to be provided with additional fire protection to ensure it meets the required standards’. Edinburgh City Council has insisted the homes are ‘safe for tenants to remain living in’, with council officers having previously approved building warrant paperwork for the site.

The entire development – when completed – will consist of 376 apartments and 12 penthouses, and Edinburgh Live added that last year the council’s building standards department saw a Scottish government ‘improvement team’ sent in ‘due to concerns over paperwork’. In late 2016, the division was meeting the 20 day target for processing initial applications ‘in just ten per cent of cases instead of the required 94 per cent’.

A spokesperson from Places for People said: ‘Relatively small sections of steelwork in a completed block of flats at the Engine Yard may require to be encased in an additional layer of non-combustible plasterboard and we have instigated a thorough programme of works to ensure that homes fully meet the requirements of the building regulations.

‘We have identified 47 properties which require inspection to establish where remedial works are required and are working with tenants to complete this programme as efficiently as possible.’

Local councillor Susan Rae demanded an explanation as to why ‘fire regulations have not been adhered to’, adding: ‘With the terrible tragedy of Grenfell still casting a long shadow, I am astonished that there should be any failings in the fire safety of newly-built flats. Developer, Places for People, need to answer for this. With new developments springing up all over Leith this news doesn’t instil confidence. Meanwhile, I sincerely hope that all the residents who are affected at Shrubhill are informed quickly and that the work to put it right is done swiftly and efficiently.’

A city council spokesperson responded: ‘Building warrant plans were reviewed and approved by the council’s building standards team. All homes already benefit from fire detection and suppression systems. All flats have hardwired automatic smoke alarms, sprinkler systems and a layer of non-combustible plasterboard on the ceiling. The block has external deck access leading to a firefighting shaft which provides a safe route of escape and protection in the event of an emergency.’

Council housing spokesperson Jim Campbell added: ‘I am very thankful that the developers themselves identified the safety shortcoming, and have put in place a programme to bring the building up to the required fire safety standard. I think it’s really important that building standards in Edinburgh gives the city a full service, as it moves out of the special measures the Scottish Government had imposed, and it is resourced to do so.

‘We really need all developments checked as they are being built, to give us confidence that safety standards are being met.  Without that, even the tightest safety standards would still be open to abuse by the unscrupulous.’

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New flats require