Pepys Estate Lewisham

LEWISHAM HOMES, housing management firm for Lewisham Council, has suspended fire safety works on the Pepys Estate after residents shared concerns about COVID-19 infections.

Earlier this week, it was reported that the works on the Pepys Estate in Deptford, London had continued despite the new 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’ of the work being 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 the last fortnight to more than 1,000 per 100,000 people.

One resident said his neighbour was shielding, and so cancelled the works on her home, ‘but was told she would need a valid letter from her GP or they would carry out the work anyway’. In turn, resident and community centre trustee Moria Kerrane asked why works were ‘postponed in the first lockdown but not now, when cases are soaring’.

She added that ‘there is a high density of social housing tenants and BAME tenants’ in the development, and that ‘COVID prevention is the only critical work we need here’. Other residents shared concerns over their mental health, due to anxieties around catching the virus from workers.

Lewisham Homes shared its position at the time, stating: ‘We believe the COVID situation and lockdowns have increased the urgency of these works, not least concerning the replacement of the lateral mains, given the increased electricity demand from more residents staying in their home.

‘We intend to continue with the works as long as we can do so within government guidelines. Our contractors have all received specific training on COVID safety.’

However, London News Online has now reported that the company has suspended the works after the ‘outcry’ from residents, having insisted until yesterday that the works needed to be done now as a ‘matter of urgency in order to improve the fire safety of our residents and their homes’. However, with University Hospital Lewisham having 408 COVID-19 patients, the company has now ‘backtracked’ and suspended work in homes and communal areas ‘with some exceptions’.

A spokesperson said: ‘Although the government has indicated construction and maintenance works should continue, we have taken the decision to suspend works inside our residents’ homes and communal areas, with some exceptions. The safety of residents, staff and contractors remains our top priority.

‘We will continue with some essential fire safety works where it is our statutory requirement to proceed or where we believe the Covid-19 situation and lockdowns have increased the urgency of these works. ‘Where works are taking place, strict Covid-safe procedures will be followed, such as using tented enclosure systems and observing the Covid-19 safe operating procedures developed in line with government, health and safety executive and construction leadership council guidance. 

‘Our environment team is also putting additional safeguards in place to help keep residents and staff safe and we will continue to review our services in response to any changes in government guidance.’

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