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Fire service forced to issue Prohibition Notice as new defects come to light

Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service has been left with no option but to issue a second Prohibition Notice for Cardinal Lofts in Ipswich following the discovery of further fire risks.
Published: 14 Mar 2023

Officers from the service’s Protection team initially issued a Prohibition Notice on the top three floors of the building, on Foundry Lane, Ipswich, in November, but were satisfied that safety measures, such as a fire alarm system and waking watch to help with safe evacuation in the event of a fire, would allow residents on the other floors to remain.

Last month, the building’s owner, Grey GR, advised the evacuation of the entirety of Cardinal Lofts after carrying out an independent risk assessment of the property.

Although Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service supported Grey GR’s decision to safeguard residents, it decided not to issue a Prohibition Notice then, based on the risk mitigation measures remaining in place for anyone who chose to stay. These outweighed the known risk at that time.

However, the fire service has since received new information that the structural issues at the property are significantly worse than the compartmentation report supplied by Grey GR suggested, which could increase the spread of a fire at the property or hamper evacuation efforts, leaving it with no choice but to issue a second Prohibition Notice for the whole of Cardinal Lofts.

Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service will only ever issue a Prohibition Notice when all alternative options have been exhausted as we appreciate how devastating it is for people to leave their homes.
Toby Gray, Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service’s Area Manager for Prevention and Protection

Toby added: “In the case of Cardinal Lofts, we have recently learned that the state of the building is worse than previously thought, posing a danger to occupants, and putting our firefighters and the waking watch at risk of serious injury or death in the event of a fire, meaning it would be highly irresponsible for us not to enforce an immediate evacuation of all floors.

“We are disappointed on behalf of residents that the fire service was not fully informed about structural issues at the property. Had we been made aware of these dangerous defects when the first Prohibition Notice was issued, months of uncertainty and confusion for those living at Cardinal Lofts may have been avoided.

“Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service has repeatedly urged Grey GR to provide a timeline for remediation works to give residents the clarity they deserve, and remains committed to working with partners, including the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, to seek the best outcome for all those affected.”

An updated Fire Risk Assessment, which would give a holistic picture of the hazards, risks and potential mitigation for the building, has still not been provided to Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service by Grey GR, despite this being requested 18 months ago.

In the meantime, the service continues to work with Grey GR to help the management company reach a resolution that addresses safety concerns and enables all residents of Cardinal Lofts to return home as soon as it is safe to do so.