Fire inspectors fail nearly a third of public buildings in Nottinghamshire

Nearly a third of public buildings inspected in Nottinghamshire last year were found in breach of fire safety regulations, figures reveal.

Wednesday, 22nd September 2021, 3:24 pm

Home Office data shows 105 buildings inspected by the Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service in the year to March did not comply with fire safety laws – 30 per cent of those inspected.

They included 36 blocks of flats, 20 shops and 12 other forms of sleeping accommodation.

Fire services conduct audits on most public buildings and the shared areas of residential properties such as flats to ensure they meet safety regulations.

Home Office data shows 105 buildings inspected by the Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service in the year to March did not comply with fire safety laws – 30 per cent of those inspected.

When inspections are unsatisfactory, auditors may issue an informal notification, or formal ones such as enforcement notices, warning a building breaches the law.

In the most serious cases, inspectors may issue a prohibition notice to restrict or ban access to a building, or they may prosecute those responsible for the property’s safety.

In the year to March, the Nottinghamshire service issued 10 formal notifications, including six enforcement notices and three prohibition notices. There were no prosecutions.

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Area Manager Bryn Coleman, Nottinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service head of prevention, protection and fire investigation.

Difficult

Bryn Coleman, Nottinghamshire service area manager, said: “Throughout the pandemic Nottinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service has continued to inspect buildings where formal complaints have been made and following fires in business premises.

“We have continued to collaborate with councils across Nottinghamshire and worked closely with Nottingham Council, through the joint audit & inspection team, to inspect high-rise residential buildings. This approach allows us to make the best possible use of all available legislation to ensure that our residents are as safe as possible from fire.

“We recognise there are many challenges with the current building stock we are inspecting.

"We welcome the amendments to the existing legislation through the Fire Safety Act and the proposed Building Safety Bill to further strengthen our powers to improve the safety in high rise residential buildings.”

With the number of inspections plummeting nationally due to the pandemic, the Fire Brigades Union warned catching up will be made difficult by a drop in the number of inspectors.

In response to the pandemic, a number of audits were also carried out remotely, although a figure has not been provided by the Home Office.

Across England, 34,400 fire safety audits were carried out in 2020-21 – 29 per cent fewer than the previous year.

In Nottinghamshire, the number of audits dropped by 672 to 348 in the period.

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “It is understandable audit figures have dipped during the coronavirus pandemic, given the reduction in non-emergency contact with the public.

“Any shortfall in inspections needs to be made up, however. This may be difficult, though, with steep falls in the number of fire inspectors in recent years.

“This fall in inspectors is also concerning due to the building safety issues that have come to light since Grenfell and the increased number of buildings fire inspectors are responsible for.”

The Government said it was committed to learning lessons from the Grenfell Tower tragedy in 2017 – the fire at a London tower block, which killed more than 70 people.