Fife councillor accuses private landlords of putting residents lives at risk

Private landlords in Fife have been accused by a councillor of putting the lives residents in high-rise flats at risk.

By Emma O’Neill
Thursday, 12th September 2019, 4:33 pm
Ravenscraig flats in Kirkcaldy
Ravenscraig flats in Kirkcaldy

Neil Crooks hit out at owners who have refused to upgrade fire doors,  saying the stance  “exposed residents to risk”.

His comments  came during a report on year two of a review of high rise flats in the region.

The local aurthority has been fitting fire doors that can contain flames for up to an hour – over and above government regulations of 30-minutes – as part of a £4.5m investment into flats in Fife.

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However, some private landlords have either ignored or refused communication from the council to upgrade their 15-minute fire doors still in use.

John Mills, head of housing,  told councillors at Ravenscraig multi-storey flats in Kirkcaldy,  54 out of 101 properties still hadn’t been upgraded to bare minimum standards.

Cllr Crooks, a former firefighter, told colleagues: “Being able to contain the source of the fire is a good thing  from a firefighter’s perspective.

“But we’ve got owners who are refusing to upgrade from a 15 minute door, and that changes the dynamic and likelihood of someone getting out of those premises.

“I’m convinced we’re at a point where the talking needs to stop and changes need to be enforced.

“We’ve done the nice bit, talking to people, trying to convince them, but that period, in my view, is gone and enforcement should be underway as soon as possible.”

Mr Mills said that they had moved to a last chance before they will progress to carrying out the work themselves and billing the private landlords.

The committee heard that a tower block review group involving Scottish Fire and Rescue Service has been working since the Greenfell tragedy to enhance the safety of Fife’s high rise flats.

Safety measures including new doors, signs and ventilation improvements., fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.

Mr Mills said: “We’ve been working with our tenants to reassure them that they are safe in their homes and backed that up with rigorous testing and inspections to underline the safety of the materials used to clad our buildings.

“Our buildings are safe and meet current Building Standards requirements in Scotland.

“However we are not complacent in relation to the need for effective fire safety and we are working to enhance standards beyond the current building standards requirements.

“We’ve visited all of our tenants and residents to offer face to face advice and discussions about any concerns and it’s been heartening to hear that people are reassured.”

The council has also consulted tenants on how caretaker support in mulit-storey flats can be improved. A report is expected later this year on how that work will be taken forward.