The sister block of Lakanal House was served a deficiency notice by the London Fire Brigade in December, documents obtained by Inside Housing reveal.
Marie Curie House in south-east London is built in the same way as its neighbour, Lakanal, where six people were killed after a fire spread through the building in 2009.
The London Fire Brigade (LFB) issued the notice to the block’s landlord Southwark Council on 18 December 2020 following an inspection which uncovered fire safety defects in the building.
These related to a lack of fire resisting separation between flats and inadequate ‘self-closing’ devices on flat-entrance doors (see box). Southwark was given until 29 January to fix the problems.
“I would ask you to note that as well as placing people at risk, operating premises without having adequate general fire precaution in place to remove or reduce fire risk and to ensure people can safely escape if a fire does occur can result in a criminal offence being committed,” the letter attached to the notice said.
Southwark was fined £570,000 for fire safety failures in the build-up to the Lakanal House fire – which included failure to maintain fire separation in the building and issues with fire doors.
A spokesperson for the council said it had been “open and honest” with residents of Marie Curie about the issues and safety was its “absolute priority”.
The notice identified three areas where it felt Southwark had breached its legal obligations:
In a recommendation not forming part of the notice it "strongly urged" consideration of combustible facade cladding as part of the building's risk assessment. The January 2020 risk assessment noted the presence of panels below windows made of aluminium and combustible phenolic foam insulation. Southwark said it would be replacing panels across the estate in the summer. The panels were first installed after the Lakanal House fire as replacements for even more combustible versions.
Southwark wrote to residents of Marie Curie on 27 November 2020, following a London Fire Brigade inspection, telling them they had discovered “an issue in one flat, which needs further investigation”.
The letter said the block was dropping its “stay put” advice as a result, with a waking-watch imposed to assist evacuation in a fire. It said fire alarms would be fitted the following week.
It was served with the deficiency notice three weeks later. Asked whether the works listed in the notice had been completed on time, the spokesperson said: “Some works began in December and January, and were completed by this date, there are ongoing works which need to happen and which will take some time.”
Southwark said the original inspection by the LFB was requested by the council after concerns were raised by a resident.
Inside Housing has previously reported that a January 2020 fire risk assessment of Marie Curie House identified issues posing a “substantial” risk in the fire.
Stephanie Cryan, cabinet member for council housing, said: “We know that any issues to do with fire safety are worrying for residents, particularly for those who witnessed the terrible fire at Lakanal House in 2009.
“The council has been open and honest with residents about why additional safety measures have been introduced at Marie Curie while we carry out further investigations.
“The safety of residents is our absolute priority and we continue to work closely with the London Fire Brigade to carry out regular inspections and carry out whatever works are necessary to improve safety in our blocks.”
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