Tuesday, 6 August 2019

Kingfisher Court will not be a new Grenfell Tower


Today I and my 2 Newsome Cllr colleagues Sue Lee-Richards and Karen Allison were on the scene as officers from Kirklees Council and West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service entered  Kingfisher Court, on Manchester Rd in Huddersfield to issue a notice making it illegal for the flats there to be used overnight as sleeping accommodation due to non-compliance with fire safety elements of the building regulations.

Kingfisher Court is supposed to be student accommodation  and during the summer it is generally overseas students who are still in residence which has limited to an extent the number of people disrupted but it was good to see Kirklees staff on hand to help those people who would have nowhere safe to stay that evening. The people managing the blocks now need to rectify the problems identified so Kingfisher Court can be a safe place for people to live in.

The relatively new buildings have had a troubled history with some of the student flats appearing as places to stay on Air BnB in contravention of their student status and therefore eligible for Council Tax. There was also some speculation that those rooms may have been used for purposes other than simple overnight stays.

So how do we end up with a situation where new buildings end up in contravention of fire regulations? Building Regulations in the UK are privatised. Developers don't have to use the Council's diminished Building Control function. Instead they can get a private contractor to carry out this work who they pay, who may cut corners and not be as stringent on compliance with the rules as they should be. It looks highly possible that this is what has occurred in this case, So with all that been revealed in the Grenfell Enquiry has anything meaningful being done to change the Building Control system? Last years amemdments to Building Regulations certainly tightened things up but in my view Building Control should be re-regulated brought back into the public sector and be properly resourced to ensure safety for residents and strict compliance with Building Regulations. The private sector should never override the public interest ever again.

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