HUNDREDS OF students and young professionals will be evicted from a newly built £30m Liverpool development after catastrophic risks were revealed, including flammable cladding, contaminated land and second-rate construction.
A Prohibition Order was issued on 17 April 2019 to the building’s owners, Fox Street Developments Ltd, for Block B at the part-finished Fox Street Village development in Everton, Liverpool earlier this month, with subsequent notices issued for two further blocks at the site on Tuesday (23 April 2019).
Shocked tenants, who first moved into the development in 2018, were told that “serious construction issues”, including high fire-risk external wall cladding, mean they will be evicted on 15 May 2019, unless all urgent repairs are made prior to the prohibition deadline (13 May 2019).
One tenant said “It’s really scary. No one is sleeping at night, I’m constantly anxious and I will be until I move out. I feel very let down and all the tenants here are fuming.
“We’ve been kept in the dark for months about the dangers we face every time we’re at home. Meanwhile the landlords have taken hundreds of thousands of pounds off us in rent.”
The Fox Street Village site was developed by the LinMari Group and consists of five blocks, totalling 400 apartments. One block is yet to be finished.
The Prohibition Order lists all the faults at the site:
Refuge storage facilities
Offsite highway works
Amenityspace/hard & soft Landscaping
Means of Escape Strategy
Construction Management Plan for BlockD
Serious fire hazard
The Prohibition Order copied to tenants described several dangers in relation to the buildings’ external construction components: “The building has a number of serious construction issues that affect the fabric of the building and will contribute to the spread of fire should ignition occur.”
It also highlighted that the development’s external wall system is incomplete and that where Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) cladding has been attached it is “poorly fitted with capping missing from various points and signs of lifting in other areas.”
Tenants were also warned of holes in the majority of the ACM panels fitted and gaps in timber joints, meaning that fire could easily pentrate to the flammable cladding and spread quickly.
The report states, “The ACM cladding panels appear to be fixed directly to poorly fitted, untreated and unfinished softwood battens and access to the interior of the wall system and the insulated materials used is easily achievable.
“Where the ACM rain screen panels are missing, there is no evidence of cavity barriers, a requirement designed to stop the vertical and horizontal spread of fire within the cavities.”
‘Fire will spread quickly’
On inspection of the building, Liverpool City Council and Merseyside Fire and Rescue became increasingly concerned about the outside cavities.
The report adds: “There is evidence of regular smoking close to the building with a substantial amount of discarded smoking materials close to the building. Should unextinguished cigarette ends enter any of the large gaps in the external cladding, the likelihood of ignition is greatly increased.
“Poor compartmentation means any fire will spread quickly and possibly unnoticed, reducing the time available to escape the building and the likely confusion resulting from poor communication between the development owners and the occupants.”
Poor evacuation policy
Following the issuing of the initial Prohibition Order for Block B, emails were sent by Fox Street Developments via various letting agents to the tenants of Blocks C and E about the building’s fire evacuation policy.
Residents were already “seriously anxious” and “confused” by the original ‘stay-put’ policy after hearing that this policy operated in Grenfell Tower when 72 tenants died as a result of the fire there in June 2017. According to one letting agent, the policy was advised by a fire officer. Occupants were also told that, “the fire alarm will only go off in one zone in which the smoke is detected only this area will evacuate and not the whole building.”
On 5 April 2019 tenants were told that the evacuation plan had been revised to a full evacuation policy due to the dangers exposed at Fox Street Village. A 24-hour fire watch has also been put in place with two inspectors patrolling each block, and which will continue until residents are forcibly evicted on 15 May 2019.
Liverpool City Council Prohibition Order issued to Fox Street Village Ltd