Council update on Tower Blocks

Monday 12 October 2020


MK Council has carried out thorough inspections of its tower blocks at Mellish Court and The Gables ahead of expected changes in government regulations on tall buildings, and in response to a small recent fire at The Gables.

The inspections involved stripping back walls in empty properties to assess and understand the quality and suitability of the buildings, working jointly with industry experts and the Buckinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service.

The findings from September 2020 show that in the unlikely event of a fire, both of these buildings which were built 60 years ago have not been built to the standards now expected to prevent the risk of smoke and fire spreading between flats and floors.

MK Council has suggested to the Buckinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service that a 24-hour warden service is implemented at each building, which they support. This is a proactive step the council has taken, meaning that there are now trained officials on hand at all times to evacuate the buildings, particularly more vulnerable residents, if that was ever needed.

The wardens are in addition to the council’s latest planned improvement works which include the installation of the remaining fire doors and surrounds and higher quality smoke detection alarms.

Council officers have today been out speaking with residents at both Mellish Court and The Gables to set out the precautionary measures the council is undertaking and ensure that residents fully understand the role they must play in remaining safe.

Assessments have indicated that the work required to bring these ageing buildings up to the standards now expected for the long-term will not provide value for money.
The Council is considering the future of the tower blocks and will speak with residents to hear their views. If the plans are to rebuild the blocks, it will not happen immediately. If this is the case, both The Gables and Mellish Court will form part of the council’s estate renewal and regeneration plans.

A formal council decision is expected within four to eight weeks.

Cabinet member responsible for Housing, Cllr Emily Darlington said: “We’re working closely with Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service and have taken precautionary steps in the best interests of our residents. We will continue to listen to residents’ views as we bring forward options for the future of these buildings.”

Phill Mould, Group Commander responsible for Fire Safety at Bucks Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Across Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes there are a number of high-rise residential premises, where the owners or those in control are responsible for maintaining the building and resident safety.

“Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service is the enforcing authority for premises regulated by the Regulatory Reform (Fire safety) Order. Our ultimate goal is to ensure that any premises not complying with current fire safety standards are remediated and brought up to the required standards.

“In complex premises, it can take a significant amount of time and investment to undertake the required works. The introduction of a 24-hour warden service is a significant interim control measure, which will help with the early detection of a fire and initiate the evacuation of the entire premises.

“The risk of a fire breaking out has not increased, and of course this risk can be reduced by everyone continuing to take sensible fire safety precautions, such as being careful when cooking, smoking, using candles and cooperating with any fire safety measures introduced.

“We will continue to work with Milton Keynes Council to ensure the continued safety of all residents.”


ENDS
NOTES TO EDITORS:


Mellish Court:
• Located in Bletchley
• 18 storeys
• 136 flats
o 99 with council tenants
o 28 leaseholders
o Nine empty properties

The Gables:
• Located in Wolverton
• 11 storeys
• 59 flats
o 44 with council tenants
o Four leaseholders
o 11 empty properties