The York Council has published a report updating residents on the progress made in addressing issues revealed by the Grenfell Tower disaster earlier in the year. The Grenfell fire resulted in the deaths of 71 occupants of the high rise housing block.
It is the third in a series of reports. The Council had previously confirmed that there are no comparable high rise housing blocks in the City
In the autumn the Council had been told that 307 fire risk assessments (FRA) were needed in the City. The latest report says that an inspection contract is “currently being finalised with a suitably qualified contractor with a target date (subject to contract) for completion by March 2018”.
A schedule for the outstanding FRA reviews has been produced which prioritises those property types most at risk; i.e. converted houses/flats; sheltered and older persons housing and hostels; and blocks where fire incidents have previously occurred.
A more detailed check of fire spread prevention measures, e.g. between floors or rooms of a building, will be carried out as vacancies occur.
A national review of the effectiveness of building regulations has resulted in an interim report. The report concentrates on buildings of more than 4 stories in height (of which there are few in York). “Most professional bodies seem to accept that the current regulatory arrangements are not working”.
The national report concludes,
“The work of the review to date has found that the current regulatory system for ensuring fire safety in high-rise and complex buildings is not fit for purpose. This applies throughout the life cycle of a building, both during construction and occupation, and is a problem connected both to the culture of the construction industry and the effectiveness of the regulators”.
The York report will be discussed at a meeting taking place on 8th January 2018
City of York Council will be improving the layout of the roundabout on Monkgate in an effort to improve safety for both cyclists and pedestrians.
Work will start on Monday 6 November and is expected to be completed by early December. Work will take place from 7am-3.30pm, Monday to Friday. To ensure that it is carried out safely there will be some lane closures during the works.
The improvements will see the approach to the roundabout on Huntington Road altered with improved crossing facilities at the traffic island. There will also be a new mandatory cycle lane on Huntington Road o enable cyclists to bypass any queuing traffic to use the off road route.
A shared use foot/cycle path will also be created on the corner of Huntington Road and Heworth Green. The width of the traffic islands on Heworth Green will also be increased to allow cyclists to use them safely.
The scheme was originally approved at an executive member for transport and planning decision session on 13 October 2016. This followed a consultation with homeowners on Monkgate and Huntington Road with most supporting the safety improvements.
As with any construction work, there is likely to be a certain amount of disruption. Residents in the affected area have been contacted directly and assured that everything reasonably possible will be done to keep this to a minimum. However, motorists should expect some delays and plan their journey accordingly.
The responsible Council executive member – Ian Gillies – has today thrown out plans which would have seen use of the bus lay-bys on Thanet Road discontinued.
The plan to close the lay-by on the Rugby Club side of the road caused major concerns with drivers fearing that sight lines would be impeded by buses parked on the highways.
There were also fears that traffic congestion would increase as would pollution levels.
The proposal was opposed by officers of the Foxwood Residents Association who argued that the plans were “over engineered” and unnecessarily expensive.
An alternative, which would have kept the bus lay-bys together with an advisory 20 mph speed limit and guard rails to prevent children running onto the highway, was tabled by local residents.
The bus lay-bys have now been saved but additional road humps are to be installed, despite the fact that the Council has now admitted that average speeds are well below the 30 mph limit.
The Residents Association has asked that they be consulted early on when proposals like these are considered in future.
We’ve been out checking today
Clearly a check needs to be made on those blocks which have not recently been redecorated to ensure notices are up to date.
Fire procedure notice
We think that the housing department needs to proactively communicate with tenants to reassure them following this weeks tragic news from London.
Combustible storage notice
York has relatively few high rise blocks but, even at those with 2 or 3 storeys, checks need to be made on alarm systems, lighting, fire doors and electrical safety.
The results of the latest Fire Service safety audit needs to be publicly displayed in each block
We think that tenants should be offered smoke alarms and free electrical equipment safety checks.
We hope that the council will ensure that both primary and secondary safety requirements are highlighted in any planning decisions made on new or modernised flat developments ( including conversions such as the one agreed for the former Nestle factory as recently as Thursday).
Fire exit direction sign
Finally the Council needs to reconsider whether it should be consulting on transferring its stock into the management of an “arms length company”. This weeks events point to the insensitivity of such arrangements with both tenants and Councillors frustrated at a lack of engagement by officials.
Better to refine the tried and tested Council housing model which at least allows tenants to exercise some control through the ballot box.
The present system is far from perfect but appears to be better than the other available options.