Lives are being put at risk by landlords who have failed to replace fire doors in Fife’s high-rise blocks following the Grenfell Tower tragedy, The Courier can reveal.
Fife Council is spending at least £4.5 million on safety improvements to the 12 local authority-run tower blocks, in response to the devastating blaze in London in June 2017 which caused the deaths of 72 people.
It has emerged formal notice letters are being sent to property owners after 54 failures were identified at Ravenscraig Flats in Kirkcaldy in relation to non-compliant 15-minute doors.
Building regulations state doors have to resist fire for at least 30 minutes, although Fife is progressing with plans to install one-hour fire resistant doors in individual properties.
Reluctant landlords have four weeks to respond before enforcement action will be taken and those failing to comply will also be reported as potentially not fit-and-proper persons, for further investigation.
Head of housing John Mills said it had proved difficult tracking down property owners, some of whom are in different continents, but stressed the council will encourage them to participate in the council’s programme of work.
H said: “We’re now down to a core of private landlords who have either ignored our approach or who are just not going to do it.
“The council will go in, do the work and we’ll not only charge the landlords but there will be a penalty as well.
“We’re trying to get the numbers down to zero as quickly as we can.
“I can’t, under current legislation, compel someone to put a 60-minute door in, but I can compel them to go to 30 minutes.”
Labour councillor Neil Crooks, who is a tenant of one of the flats in question, described the way the improvement programme has been implemented as “exemplary” and “outstanding”, but believes the landlords in question have to be brought to account.
He said: “I’m convinced that we’re at a point where the talking stops.
“We can’t continue to have a 15-minute door in a block of flats. That significantly changes the fire and the dynamic of someone getting out of the building.
“We’ve done the nicey, nicey bits, trying to convince owners to make the changes, but that’s now gone.
“Taking the doors off and replacing them should be done as soon as possible.”
Mr Mills told councillors on the region’s community and housing services committee the council had gone “above and beyond” Scottish Government requirements, noting 35 measures identified in a 43-point action plan developed in response to Grenfell had been completed.
There have been delays in relation to laundrette and sprinkler improvements in high risk areas, Mr Mills added, but discussions are continuing with Scottish Power, Scottish Water and the council’s property services and they should be complete by early 2020.
The council has also consulted tenants on how caretaker support in multi-storey flats can be improved, and a report is expected later this year on how that work will be taken forward.