Fire safety worry in council flats

Flats 2-8 Newton Road, Lewes
Flats 2-8 Newton Road, Lewes

Urgent work to install fire protection walls in the roof void of a Lewes District Council housing unit on the Landport Estate was started this week.

It followed a complaint from a resident to Lewes Town Councillor Stephen Catlin, who raised the matter with the Housing Department.

The walling in the roof void is designed to prevent flames spreading to other units in the event of a blaze.

Cllr Catlin said the work was reported as “completed” some while ago, but a resident at the flats in Newton Road told him that the only work to have been done was the depositing of materials in the roof void – the workmen never came back.

As recently as October 11, the Housing Department was still insisting the work had been completed.

Cllr Catlin rebuffed this, saying that his contact was adamant the work had not been done.

And on Tuesday this week, Michael Wood from the Housing Department confirmed that the matter was as Cllr Catlin reported and an immediate check was being launched on other properties.

Cllr Catlin said lives could potentially have been put at risk because of the lack of a fire protection wall.

“The district council refers to this oversight as an aberration,” he said, “but surely it needs more than a contractor’s say-so that the work has been done. It should have been inspected and signed off – where is the audit trail?”

He added: “It would seem to be a good idea to check all work invoiced by this particular contractor, and indeed others.

“I have every admiration for the work the Housing Department does, and indeed it may be Building Control which is at fault in this case. But I do think procedures should be tightened up.”

He said the Newton Road tenants were delighted by the swift response to rectify the matter, with work at the flats getting under way on Tuesday.