The appeal had been brought by Epworth PM Ltd, the managing agents of Beech Rise and Willow Rise, Roughwood Drive, Kirby, following the issuing of enforcement notices in respect of each block of flats by Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service (MFRS) in June 2020.
A District Judge has dismissed an appeal against two enforcement notices which were issued following the discovery of defective cladding on two Merseyside blocks of high-rise flats.
Mr Richard Littler QC, representing the Appellant, told Liverpool Magistrates Court that the notices had been issued on 19 June 2020, and had unrealistically required the Appellant Property Management company to implement a “waking watch” within 28 days of the date of the notices. He told the court that the enforcement notices issued by the fire services were unreasonable, unworkable, and impossible to comply with.
But Protection Compliance Manager Allan Harris, giving evidence on behalf of the fire service, told the court that he had issued the notices following receipt of the fire risk assessment for the tower blocks, which had been commissioned by the owners of the premises, Parklands (Kirkby) Management Company Limited. The fire risk assessment had identified several areas of concern, including wooden cladding on the building and wooden balconies. It had concluded that, given the construction of the building, the “stay put” fire policy would not be appropriate in the event of fire, and that occupants should be advised to evacuate in the event of fire.
Mr Harris had visited the premises on 19th June 2020, and his visual assessment of the property had confirmed the contents of the fire risk assessment. Due to the absence of a suitable fire alarm system within the flats the officer had identified that, as was detailed in the NFCC guidance, a “waking watch” would be necessary and should be immediately implemented in order to alert occupants to any fire. This would have required staff to patrol the premises 24-hour day in order to identify and respond to a fire by sounding the alarm, calling the fire service in helping to evacuate any occupants of the building.
Accordingly, officer Harris drafted and served two enforcement notices for the Beech Rise and Willow Rise blocks of flats, each of which contained 80 residential units, due to the serious risk to occupants in the event of a fire, requiring the implementation of a “waking watch” within 28 days.
Officer Harris told the court that the Appellant’s should have implemented the “waking watch” on 16 March 2020 when they had received the fire risk assessment, and that they should also have notified the fire service and told the residents of its findings.
Group Manager Christopher Head confirmed that he had agreed with Mr Harris’s assessment and had authorised the enforcement notices to be issued.
Warren Spencer, solicitor for MFRS, said that the fire service had done exactly what the government guidance had required them to do, and could not therefore be seen as unreasonable. Mr Spencer submitted to the court that the cost of compliance might be significant and even substantial, but it could not be said that it was impossible, legally and economically to comply with the notices.
District Judge James Hatton dismissed the appeal, stating that the Appellant company had not done anything to protect their residents and had not followed the government guidance. He stated that the notices had not been impossible to comply with and were far from unreasonable.
He ordered Epworth PM Ltd to pay the fire service costs in the sum of £5487.29.