New Northampton flatblock residents unaware they are living in a 'death trap' experts claim

Private inspectors say the new Victoria Gate development is will remain a death trap until its fire safety measures are improved.
Private inspectors say the new Victoria Gate development is will remain a death trap until its fire safety measures are improved.

Private building inspectors say a new apartment block in Northampton is a 'death trap' after finding barely any fire protection between the homes.

Occupants have already started to move into Lea Valley Homes' Victoria Gate development in St James Park Road.

The 44 one and two bedroomed flats are being offered on a shared ownership scheme.

But a report commissioned by one of the new occupants has uncovered some worrying findings.

A spokesman from its authors, Raising the Standard (RTS), even told the Chronicle and echo: "God forbid if there is a fire in there. Everyone is going to die."

RTS was only commissioned to produce a report on one property at the development. But a spokesman for the firm said they were so concerned by the 72 issues they found, they decided to inspect the communal areas of the building as well.

Their report revealed that none of the fireboards in the central stairwell had been sealed with a flame retardant product called mastic. This sort of protection offers occupants an hour 'escape time' should a fire be raging outside their flat.

Conversely, it is also designed to keep any blaze contained to a single flat.

But RTS says this oversight leaves a fire free to move from apartment to apartment.

Gaps between the flat doors and frames are meant to only be 4 millimetres under fire regulations - but RTS says all of the doors in the home they inspected had a wider gap.

In one case it was up to 10 millimetres, which they say would allow smoke to seep through much quicker.

"Put it this way, if there was a fire in my flat, within minutes it would be raging in yours a well," said the spokesman.

"It is a timber frame development as well.

"This is not scaremongering in any way. Regulations put in place long before Grenfell have been breached here.

"It's a death trap."

A picture of the fireboard between properties shows no 'mastic' sealant used to stop fire from spreading.

A picture of the fireboard between properties shows no 'mastic' sealant used to stop fire from spreading.

RTS has decided to go public about the report because it was concerned at Lea Valley Homes' slow response to their findings. The housing supplier says the development passes all fire safety regulations - though it has conceded there are a number of 'snagging' items that need to be fixed.

RTS sent the findings to their client on June 11 and these were immediately passed on to Lea Valley Homes. Yet, two months later the fireboards have not yet been sealed and the doors still have too big a gap.

Phase one of the development was finished in early 2019 and was signed off by the building regulators Premier, though RTS believes the regulator must have missed the fact sealant was missing. The company has passed on its findings to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

A spokeswoman for the parent company of Lea Valley Homes, the Aldwyck Housing Group, said: "We’d like to reassure our customers and the local community that our Victoria Gate
development in Northampton fully complies with current Building Control Fire Regulations.

This is a stringent legal assessment that ensures properties are safe to live in. We also carry out our own Fire Risk Assessment. Customer safety is our priority.

Raising the Standard says the lack of mastic will enable fire to spread quickly between the homes.

Raising the Standard says the lack of mastic will enable fire to spread quickly between the homes.

We are aware of a number of snagging items and our Customer Care Team are working with customers and contractors to prioritise and resolve these. The development is also covered
by the Premier Guarantee warranty.

We want customers to feel safe and enjoy their homes and have written to our customers at Victoria Gate to reassure them.

The inspectors have passed on their findings to the HSE.

The inspectors have passed on their findings to the HSE.