Property firm guilty after 'putting lives at risk'

Flats in Ipswich Wolsey StreetImage source, Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service
Image caption,

The flats near Cardinal Park were found to be unsafe and in breach of fire safety regulations

  • Published

Fire service bosses say they have sent a “clear message” to those who put “lives at risk” after a property firm was found to have endangered residents of flats.

In July 2017, Suffolk Fire Service looked at the blocks in Wolsey Street in Ipswich and found they were cladded with aluminium composite material - similar to that on the Grenfell Tower flats in London, which caught fire a month earlier.

Home from Home Property Management Ltd and director Edward Ottley have been found guilty of breaching fire safety legislation following a two-week trial.

The defendants faced eight charges of non-compliance with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 at Colchester Magistrates' Court and are due to be sentenced at a later date.

Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service, external said a fire risk assessment of the building had been undertaken but failed to take into account the high fire risk posed to residents of the flats, near Cardinal Park.

Home from Home had commissioned a fire risk assessor but gave them inaccurate information regarding the level of risk posed by the building, the fire service said.

When this became apparent, the risk assessor invalidated the fire risk assessment they had produced.

Then, in 2019, fire service officers attended the flats and identified the fire risk assessment had not been reviewed nor updated.

The visit also raised concerns over whether residents would be able to exit safely in the event of a fire.

'Prolonged risk'

In August 2021, Home from Home appointed a new fire risk assessor who corroborated the findings of the fire service.

A fire service spokesperson said: "The actions by Home from Home regarding the existence of the cladding has prolonged the potential risk of harm to residents had a fire occurred.

"This is a clear message to all managing agents that fire safety is important, and as an enforcing authority Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service will not hesitate in prosecuting where lives are placed at risk."

Image caption,

Home from Home Property Management Ltd and director Edward Ottley will be sentenced at Ipswich Crown Court in July

The fire risk assessor has since worked to ensure there is no longer a significant risk to life at the flats.

Bosses at Home from Home were working towards the removal of the cladding following an injection of government funding.

Home From Home and Ottley are due to be sentenced at Ipswich Crown Court on 25 July.

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