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09 September 2020

Worcester Park fire – One Year on – Residents give evidence to parliament on the UK’s growing building safety crisis

3 mins

A year ago today, 60 residents of Richmond House, including 17 children, lost their homes in the Worcester Park fire.  Although firefighters arrived within 9 minutes of the first 999 call, and 125 firefighters in all were called to the scene, the entire building was destroyed. The 60 residents are still in temporary accommodation. Many suffered traumatic psychological injuries.

Richmond House was built by Berkeley Homes, and sold to Metropolitan Thames Valley Housing Association, who sold it on to residents. Many residents were key workers, including nurses, social workers, and postal workers.

Today it’s clear basic construction errors led to the fire. An independent fire investigation survey commissioned by Metropolitan Thames Valley Housing Association found missing and inadequate cavity barriers that slow the spread of fire and hot gases.  Unknown to residents, these basic requirements were missing from Richmond House. Like Grenfell Tower before, the safety problems at Richmond House were concealed behind external walls. Grenfell has highlighted the failure of modern construction materials such as ACM, but the report into the Worcester Park fire highlights that basic construction standards are not being met.

A year on from the fire, Berkeley continue to deny responsibility despite the clear findings of their own report. Residents are left living in temporary accommodation, unable to buy new homes or possessions, and unable move on with their lives.

The families of Richmond House join an ever-growing list of victims of a continuing nationwide building safety and cladding crisis. The fire is yet another wake-up call that the UK system of building safety regulation does not work.

The Richmond House residents are today providing a written response to the Housing, Communities and Local Government parliamentary select committee’s call for evidence about the government’s draft Building Safety Bill.

Residents will tell the committee that:

  • their evidence shows the Bill would not address systemic failings in the regulation of building safety;
  • Berkeley Homes were able to conceal inadequate or missing fire safety barriers despite a system of regulation and inspection. By their nature such problems remain hidden until there is a fire;
  • there is no indication in the draft Bill that low-rise, high-density buildings like Richmond House would even be subject to the regulation proposed in the Bill – despite the very clear and widespread safety risks to many such buildings across the UK;
  • Even for those buildings subject to the proposed regulation, the draft Bill would allow construction companies to continue putting lives at risk and escaping responsibility, and would make leaseholders pay huge bills for safety works that should have been done by the original builders.

Bindmans are helping the residents hold Berkeley Homes and Metropolitan to account and claim damages to get their lives back on track. Their cases continue.

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