I recently attended a meeting with the Commissioner and the Chief Fire Officer, Rick Hylton, to discuss the implications of the Building Risk Review, and what this will mean for buildings in Essex.
I was informed of which buildings in the Essex constituencies will be impacted by this reform. Although I do not have any of these buildings in my constituency, I am mindful of my constituents who own properties in wider Essex, such as buy to let properties, who may be affected. I learned how Essex County Fire and Rescue Service are approaching the issue and what we can expect to be happening as owners understand and work towards rectifying their buildings.
The Essex County Fire and Rescue Service (ECFRS) will be completing an audit of all the at risk buildings. In Essex, there are a total of 310, with 197 buildings on the original list, alongside a further 113 buildings found to have problems with either cladding or compartmentation issues. Once the audit has been completed on these buildings, the ECFRS will be instructing the Responsible Person (RP) of any action that needs to be taken. These instructions are categorised under three levels. The first is informal action which seeks to Advise, Educate and Inform. The second is formal action which are Enforcement Notices that are raised for serious fire safety deficiencies. Finally, the most serious is a Prohibition Notice, these are issued when the risk to relevant persons is so serious that the use of the premises ought to be prohibited or restricted.
The ECFRS have outlined that remediation or full alert alarm system is desired outcome but not an immediate solution. At the moment, Waking Watch or Simultaneous Evacuation are acting as interim measures to reduce risk. I understand that the costs of having a Waking Watch is significant and I am aware of continued problems where identifying the responsible person is challenging, as it has to be decided whether it is the freeholder or the leaseholder, and in some cases, this to be particularly hard to determine. To add to this, before access to the Waking Watch Fund can be given, the Waking Watch has to be implemented. This therefore places a significant cost to the leaseholder or the freeholder.
I fully appreciate the complex nature of this issue and will continue to work with the ECFRS, to support my constituents who have been affected by the Building Risk Review.