Pepys Estate Deptford

RESIDENTS OF the Pepys Estate in Deptford, London are ‘worried about a repeat’ of Grenfell due to fire safety risks from ongoing works on the development.

Earlier this year, it was reported that the works on the estate had continued despite the new COVID-19 lockdown, with Lewisham Homes undertaking ‘major’ fire safety checks. Residents were concerned amid ‘surges’ in COVID-19 cases nationwide and in Lewisham, with concerns over construction works ‘entering [residents’] homes’.

Lewisham Homes is undertaking ‘major’ fire safety works on the estate, with workers from separate contractor firms ‘going in and out of homes’ as a result. The company stated that fire risk assessments ‘have identified the essential elements that require works to be carried out as a matter of urgency in order to improve the fire safety of our residents and their homes’, with the ‘majority’ undertaken ‘to prevent fire and smoke from spreading between rooms, flats and communal areas’.

This work has seen contractors checking fire doors, walls, floors, ceilings and electrical and plumbing installations, all while ‘checking homes are fire safety compliant’, but as COVID-19 cases rise residents have become ‘concerned the number of construction workers coming in and out is a health risk’, with Lewisham’s case numbers having ‘surged’ in early January to more than 1,000 per 100,000 people.

Later that month, Lewisham Homes suspended works after the residents’ concerns over COVID-19 infection, despite having insisted until that decision that the works were needed as a ‘matter of urgency in order to improve the fire safety of our residents and their homes’. This changed once University Hospital Lewisham reported housing 408 COVID-19 patients, with the company having ‘backtracked’ and suspended work in homes and communal areas ‘with some exceptions’.

News Shopper has now reported that residents are concerned about the works posing fire safety risks themselves, with tenants having photographed holes ‘drilled into each floor’ and panels ‘cut through on doors labelled fire doors’, with London Fire Brigade (LFB) called upon to visit and conduct an ‘urgent inspection’.

One resident said it was ‘appalling’ that it was ‘left to residents to question the quality of contractors works’, and that it was ‘reminiscent of Grenfell and so scary between COVID and fire – living in a building site and watching fire safety infrastructure being destroyed’. In response, a Lewisham Homes spokesman said that the doors in question were ‘only for security’, and were labelled fire doors ‘because they can operate as them’.

He added: ‘These works are part of electrical and alarm upgrades being carried out specifically to improve the fire safety of the buildings. The doors in question are only for security and are not intended to be sealed units. The temporary apertures are in already vented panels which form part of the building’s smoke dispersal system. There is a permanently open vent at the end of the corridor to allow smoke to vent to the outside.

‘The doors are labelled as fire doors because they are of a type which is suitable for that purpose but in this particular setting that is not their function. We have asked our fire engineers to undertake a survey of the corridor ventilation and the security doors in order to address our residents’ concerns in more detail.’

Residents called for LFB to attend and provide ‘independent scrutiny’, with another resident commenting: ‘As it is a building regulations issue and fire safety domain it really needs the independent scrutiny of [LFB] because we have [Lewisham Homes] and contractors ticking off their own homework. Residents want safe homes – [they] want safe fire works and these are not being done in a safe way.’

The news outlet pointed out that LFB had been contacted for comment, and was ‘looking into’ the situation.

It is a mandatory requirement for every commercial premises to undertake fire risk assessments. Download our free fire risk assessment template for simple premises here