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Council saying we need fire alarms in purpose built block of flats


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I live in a block of flats built in 1984, the front was retained from an 1890 commercial building but the rest of the flats were purpose built with solid concrete floors, smoke vents at the top of the communal stairs and fire doors off the stairs. The flats are over 4 floors including the basment flats. A fire assessment has been carried out each year professionally and commissioned by the management company which consists of 5 of the residents, no fire safety issues have been raised in these assessments. More recently the local city council environment health have visited and said that because the building does not adhere to 1991 building regulations it must have smoke alarms in the communal stairways linked to heat detectors in the hallway of each flat.

I can't find any reference as to why this is needed, the ARMA guidance "Fire Safety in Flats" says that purpose built flats designed for compartmentation don't require alarms. The government's "Fire Safety in Purpose Built Blocks of Flats Guide" states that "Communal fire alarm systems should not be installed unless it can be demonstrated that there is no other practicable way of ensuring an adequate level of safety. If such a system is provided, it must be possible to manage it." and that "more generally, application of current benchmark standards to an existing block of flats is not normally appropriate."

Am I missing something here, the 1991 reference seems to apply to converted flats where they will not have the same levels of compartmentation.

Thanks for any insight.


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  • 2 weeks later...

Couple of problems for the Council:
- They are environmental health experts with limited fire safety knowledge limited to matters they enforce under the Housing Act, which is HMO's and the interior of individual flats and houses, this is a purpose built block under the Regulations at the time (Still CP3 but robust compartmentation & stay put as a result, just with better smoke control methodology) and not a conversion that would come under s257 of the Housing Act (most of which are former single houses)
- It's completely outside of their jurisdiction,  the Fire Safety Order applies and in purpose built blocks the fire service are the lead enforcer (although joint enforcement teams do exist)

They are wrong and would likely loose a determination or appeal- your FRA would have identified if you needed a mixed system fire alarm solution.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Thanks Anthony, who would the appeal or determiation be through, there doesn't seem to be a body that out ranks Environmental Health and can direct them here. They insist this is within their jurisdiction, is there a role within the Fire Service who would be interested in this?             

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They can insist, but they can't instigate legal proceedings unless it falls under s257 of the Housing Act, namely:
- a building that is declared an HMO by the local authority. a converted block of flats where the standard of the conversion does not meet the relevant building standards* and fewer than two-thirds of the flats are owner-occupied

*if the conversion was completed before 1 June 1992, it should comply with Building Regulations in force as of 1 June 1992

Only where the particular authority has included these properties in an additional licensing scheme do they require a license.

They can only make you do this by issuing an Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) Improvement Notice under the Housing Act The recipient may make an appeal to the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) against an improvement notice or a prohibition order. An appeal against an improvement notice could include an appeal on the merits of the works required by the notice.

If the Fire Safety Order is to be used then only the Fire & Rescue Service can take Enforcement Action and on receiving an Enforcement or Prohibition Notice you can appeal it via the Magistrate's Court or where you agree that there is a need for improvements to fire precautions but disagree on the technical solution to be used, they may agree to refer the issue to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government for independent determination under article 36 of the Order.

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