North Bank Sheffield

THE NORTH Bank building in Sheffield was served a prohibition notice by South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service (SYFRS) last week, with five floors evacuated and residents given emergency accommodation.

BBC News reported on the evacuation of the sixth to 10th floors in the North Bank building last Friday, after SYFRS served the apartment block with a prohibition notice. This came after it had undertaken an inspection, and found ‘issues’ relating to both smoke ventilation and fire escape procedures. Block management company Love Your Block had flagged up problems to SYFRS during the routine inspection, with other issues established including cavity wall and cladding problems.

The company’s Paul McCormack said that ‘we are doing absolutely everything that we can to support the residents, and are having multiple conversations with [SYFRS] and the council’. Residents were told they ‘may not be able’ to return to apartments until the end of next week, with SYFRS noting that it had been a ‘difficult decision’ to make so close to Christmas, but adding that ‘safety was a priority’.

Last month, SYFRS confirmed it would deploy a fire safety team to inspect all of the region’s high rise residential tower blocks by the end of 2021. The plans for ‘all high-rise residential tower blocks’ saw its team – funded by a government grant – start to inspect all buildings 18m or taller or with six or more storeys ‘as part of a programme launched in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire’. The inspections will assess fire safety measures in each block.

Later that month, four blocks in the city were set to be investigated as they have ‘risky cladding or insulation’, including the Metis building in the city centre which has aluminium composite material cladding. Residents of North Bank have been offered emergency accommodation, with resident Ryan Spence noting that they were told at around 7.30pm on Friday that they would need to leave.

He added that ‘the building has failed every single fire regulations it turns out and every person from the sixth floor onwards to the 10th floor have been forced to leave tonight or face arrest’, with 35 of the 10 storey block’s 132 flats in the upper section affected. Mr McCormack noted in turn that the upper floors ‘can be reoccupied when a full evacuation alarm system is in place’ to alert residents in the event of a fire, rather than the stay put policy currently in place.

An additional measure will see a waking watch patrol lower floors until the system was ‘up and running’, with an SYFRS spokesperson commenting: ‘Business fire safety inspectors have issued a prohibition notice on the building for a number of fire safety issues. Our fire inspectors will continue to work with the business owner to support them in resolving the issues, and to enable the notice to be lifted.’

Sheffield County Council’s Paul Wood said that the council’s enforcement arrangements would be used to ‘ensure works are carried out by the building owner and its managing company so that residents can return to their homes promptly and if possible before Christmas’, stating in turn that ‘we are appalled that despite advice this building has fire safety issues that puts at risk residents and we are working closely with SYFRS’.