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Orchard Village Rainham residents demand more action over fire safety concerns

PUBLISHED: 14:54 16 June 2017 | UPDATED: 15:03 16 June 2017

Residents have raised concerns about fire safety at Orchard Village. Picture: Google Maps

Residents have raised concerns about fire safety at Orchard Village. Picture: Google Maps

Google Maps

‘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.

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.”

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