Chichester resident 'concerned about the potential loss of human life' as fire risk persists at block of flats

"I'm not interested in the politics, I am concerned about the potential loss of human life."

Thursday, 30th September 2021, 12:50 pm
Updated Thursday, 30th September 2021, 9:06 pm

Those were the words of Chichester resident Cath Gater, who has raised concerns over a fire risk at her block of flats.

In 2019, fire marshals were instructed to patrol Grainger House in Winden Avenue on a 24/7 basis. Hyde Housing also changed the fire strategy from ‘stay put’ to ‘simultaneous evacuation’.

However, problems continue to persist two years later with 'no evacuation equipment' available, and 'only one main exit'.

Cath Gater has raised concerns over a fire risk at Grainger House. Photo: Steve Robards

Cath, who has lived in the property for four years, said: "We are not getting too many answers from the landlord or anybody else.

"We have had problems with the electrics and we can't get any answers over the fire alarm system.

"We have been treading over debris where they've ripped the ceiling down.

"It's been an absolute nightmare. There's no consideration for any of the residents."

In 2019, fire marshals were instructed to patrol Grainger House in Winden Avenue on a 24/7 basis. Hyde Housing also changed the fire strategy from ‘stay put’ to ‘simultaneous evacuation’. Photo: Steve Robards

Cath said the block consists of two floors.

"On the top floor, we've got vulnerable adults with mobility issues," she said. "They would struggle to get people out in the event of an evacuation.

"It's just horrendous. The fire marshals are here because the building is still at risk. It's blatant disregard from the landlord."

Jack Bernard, Hyde's head of fire safety and delivery said the design of the building, in relation to exits, is in accordance with the relevant building regulations 'at the time of construction'.

Cath, who has lived in the property for four years, said: "We are not getting too many answers from the landlord or anybody else." Photo: Steve Robards

He added: "We regularly liaise with our vulnerable residents, carrying out ongoing individual personal evacuation assessments where required and continue to work closely with the fire and rescue service in managing the safety of Grainger House and our residents.

“I am not aware of any unanswered questions from residents, but always encourage our residents to get in touch with us so that we can answer any concerns that they may have.”

However, Cath said she and other residents are 'sitting in limbo', adding: "We are laying in bed every night wondering if there is going to be a breach.

"I was patrolling the building myself before the marshals arrived. I picked up a lot of things that were a risk.

"I've co-operated fully and had no answers. Are they playing Russian Roulette with us?

"I am concerned for the residents here. Things are definitely not alright."

Another resident, who asked to remain anonymous, said the 'development is unsafe' and 'people are living in danger'.

He added that people 'should never have been allowed' to live in the property.

"When it was built six years ago, there were issues," he said. "There was never any sound proofing or fire compartmentation.

"No plan has been put in place and straight forward questions are not being answered.

"If there was a fire, they wouldn't be able to get people out. Toxic fumes could seep through the walls.

"Every night we have to put up with noise. It's very distressing. I was healthy when I moved in here but not anymore.

"It is hell [and] there is no end in sight."

Mr Bernard offered an apology to Grainger House residents 'for any inconvenience caused'.

He added: "We regularly update our residents on the fire safety works taking place at Grainger House, and have held resident meetings so that we can answer any questions as the work progresses.

“The safety of our residents is our utmost priority. Grainger House is currently being monitored by fire marshals and a fire alarm system which is above the requirements set out in national guidance."

West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service is 'aware of ongoing improvements and remediation work' at Grainger House.

A spokesperson added: "Officers from our protection team have been working closely with the housing provider and residents to help the coordination of this remediation work and the ongoing maintenance of building safety arrangements.

“We will continue to provide guidance to ensure works carried out are in line with current fire legislation to help keep residents safe.”

Chichester MP Gillian Keegan has also taken a keen interest in developments. She said she has contacted Hyde and the county council directly 'regarding the fire issues'.

She also encouraged people with similar concerns about their property to come forward and ask for help.