Orchard Village Rainham residents demand more action over fire safety concerns
PUBLISHED: 14:54 16 June 2017 | UPDATED: 15:03 16 June 2017
‘Do we need to wait for a tragedy before our concerns are heard’ is the question on residents’ lips living on a problem-ridden estate.
Colin Nickless – chairman of the Orchard Village residents association – says the Rainham estate’s angry inhabitants feel their fire safety concerns have been ignored.
Speaking after it was revealed the Grenfell Tower Action Group had raised concerns about fire safety with the block’s owners Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, in the months before the tragic inferno on Wednesday, Colin said: “Late last year I [raised] concerns regarding the fire safety in Orchard Village.
“I provided photographic evidence of failures in fire protection and breaches in building regulations, by failures in construction which would counter the Stay Put policy.”
The policy is dependent upon the fire resistant construction of buildings - that if a fire breaks out, flames are contained within the point of origin and do not spread to neighbouring homes.
Residents' fire safety concerns at Orchard Village
According to a surveyor paid for by Orchard Village Rainham residents, the air movement in the cavity walls would lead to fire spreading rapidly between properties. Picture: Colin Nickless
Pipework that goes through divisional walls between should be fitted with fire collars but are left open and filled with sealant which can be flammable, according to Mr Nickless. Picture: Colin Nickless
According to Mr Nickless, many fire keys have been constructed over head height. In the image, he says a fireman would need steps or a bunk up to open this in order to gain emergency access.Picture: Colin Nickless
A smoke vent control unit at Orchard Village Rainham which a resident says is often left flashing "fault". Picture: Colin Nickless
But Trevor McKeever, who served 13 years as a crew manager at Hornchurch Fire Station and retired after 30 years of service in 2013, made damning criticisms after visiting Orchard Village.
“I made my first visit eight months ago,” he said.
“A resident who knows me asked me to look round and I made a list and referred that list to the London Fire Brigade’s fire safety department.
“Upon that I was informed that an additional engine would be despatched to any fire calls at the Orchard Estate.”
Mr McKeever said he found fire keys that allow firefighters emergency access were not working or placed too high up to reach easily, intumescent fire seals which expand and seal off the gap between the door and the frame missing, and smoke vent control panels broken.
“I visited today [Friday, June 16] and the issues had still not been rectified,” he continued.
“I spoke to a resident in Merlin Court who said it had been like that for two years.”
A spokeswoman for Clarion Housing, which owns the estate, said: “Clarion is working closely with key contractors and fire specialists on upgrading fire stopping in non communal areas and are addressing the concerns raised previously, working in conjunction to an agreed timetable with the brigade on these retrospective requirements. The dangerous situation reported does not exist as stated.”
In January, Dagenham and Rainham MP Jon Cruddas raised concerns in Parliament about the weakness in social housing regulation and a delay by the housing minister in carrying out a rapid investigation about breach of building regulations claims at the estate.
His spokesman said: “Jon has been fighting hard for the residents of Orchard Village across a multitude of issues.
“He has raised concerns with the housing association, council, regulators and in Parliament. He continues to do so.”