Northampton housing association stands by 'stay in the flat policy' following Northampton flat fire

Henry Nicholls / SWNS.com
Henry Nicholls / SWNS.com
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A social housing provider in Northampton said if residents see or hear a blaze in another part of the building they should stay in their own apartments if the fire is elsewhere.

On January 10, earlier this year, more than 40 firefighters were called to tackle the blaze on the fifth floor of Newlife Building 2 in Lower Cross Street, Spring Boroughs.

Five flats in the 11-storey high-rise building were damaged on the night and two residents have been temporarily evacuated from their flats until renovation work is completed.

In the light of the Grenfell Tower disaster, the Chronicle & Echo asked PA Housing, who oversees the two tallest tower blocks in the town, whether the group has a 'stay-in-the-flat policy'.

A spokesman for PA Housing said the group does have a principle of action in place and asks residents to adhere to it.

It reads: 'In the event of a fire in a customer’s flat, our advice is to: 'Leave the room where the fire is straight away, then close the door. Tell everyone in your home and get them to leave. Close the front door of your flat behind you. Do not stay behind to put the fire out. Call the fire service. Wait outside, away from the building.

''In the event that a customer sees or hears a fire in another part of the building, we would like to emphasise that the building is designed to contain a fire in the flat where it starts.

'This means it will usually be safe for customers to stay in their own apartments if the fire is elsewhere.'

The housing association has no plans to install sprinklers into the tower block but have said that they will continue to review the situation in line with legislation and fire safety guidance.

This has caused concerns with one resident, Jem Brown who lost his flat in the Newlife Building fire.

He hopes PA Housing review safety procedures in light of the blaze in Northampton.

He said he "definitely [has] some concerns but hopefully after the Grenfell Fire they will be looking at it.

"But it's never going to be the same living there, I'll never feel 100 percent safe there now."

The Liberal Democrats have now confirmed they are submitting a motion in the next council meeting calling for the sprinklers to be fitted retrospectively.

Sally Beardsworth (Kingsthorpe, Lib Dem) said: "It doesn't matter that it is not statutory we should do it anyway.

"If there is a major emergency what is going to happen?"

The Chron is also calling on Northampton Partnership Homes (NPH) to install sprinklers.

The association said there is currently ‘no requirement’ to install sprinkler systems in all its flat blocks in the wake of the London high-rise disaster but would consider doing so if required to by law, however.

Labour's Danielle Stone (Castle), whose party is also considering putting in a motion added: "NPH have done a thorough job in making sure flats are safe from spreading fire.

"They are working very hard to make sure tenants are safe in their homes.

"We must always be vigilant to potential problems. Jeremy Corbyn's suggestion all tower blocks have sprinklers in them is sensible."

The Independent has also reported Jeremy Corbyn as saying he has demanded emergency funding for sprinklers in all tower blocks to put a stop to a repeat of the Grenfell Tower fire.

A spokesman for PA Housing said that ultimately the safety of their customers is their primary concern.

"In Northampton, we manage the Newlife apartments, which meet all current fire safety standards.

"We will also continue to work with the local fire authority to carry out all necessary assessments to ensure our customers’ safety. Both towers were fully refurbished in 2006 and have brick slip and render cladding, which is not flammable in any way."

"The insulation used is rock wool, which is not flammable and is designed to prevent the spread of fire. The frame and core of the building is concrete which will further help contain a potential fire. A caretaker is also on site.

“To help reassure our customers and to help them take the correct action in the event of a fire we have mailed every resident a letter and fire advice booklet.

"We would like to ask our customers to assist us in continuing to keep the buildings safe by ensuring fire doors are not left open and personal items are not stored in communal stairwell and corridors.”