THE removal of scores of smoke alarms from communal areas in blocks of flats across Guildford is an unacceptable risk to the lives of residents, Labour Councillor James Walsh has said.
And he has called on the council leadership to reinstall the alarms without delay.
Cllr Walsh discovered that officers at Guildford Borough Council have taken away smoke alarms from the stairwells and corridors of flats across the borough, including at Downsview Court in his own Stoke ward, at Applegarth Avenue in Park Barn, at Mount Court on Portsmouth Road and in Bedford House in Bedford Road.
When he started asking questions about the alarms, he discovered that the council had not consulted with residents about their removal and that officers had carried out the work following advice from the fire service. In addition, he was told that residents’ own alarms would be sufficient – despite the council not checking first if any of the residents had any or taking in to account the possibility of fires breaking out in stairwells or corridors.
The alarms were taken away in October and November and, according to officers, no prior fire assessment was necessary. When questioned further, Cllr Walsh was told that fire assessors would visit the blocks “in the new year”.
Cllr Walsh said: “This is the most shocking thing I’ve come across in many years as a councillor – the council has effectively put hundreds of tenants and leaseholders has risk by removing alarm systems from the communal areas of many blocks of flats without a single consultation or fire risk assessment.
“I was first told about this by a concerned resident in Bellfields and, shocked as I was by her allegations, nothing could prepare me for the scale of the work carried out or the complete lack of risk mitigation undertaken – not one resident was asked if they had their own alarms and, because she hadn’t, my constituent had to go and buy one straight after the communal alarm was removed.”
He added: “The decision to do this so soon after the Grenfell fire, and the terrible way it has been handled, have caused me great concern and I have called for the Leader of the Council to clarify the situation and take immediate action to reinstall the alarms.”