Families have launched a legal campaign against The Guinness Partnership after 12 homes engulfed by flames in just 17 minutes after fire spread through the cladding
The former residents of a building at 122-124 Pankhurst Avenue, Brighton, who were left traumatised after their homes were destroyed by a fire in September 2019, along with the other residents of Pankhurst Avenue who were displaced following the fire and remain unable to return to their homes due to safety concerns regarding the buildings, are considering legal action against their landlord, The Guinness Partnership, along with others such as the builders and architects.
The blaze, which took place on the evening of 20 September 2019, left the building seriously damaged with all residents being evacuated including those residents from the neighbouring block and houses. The Fire Service noted that the speed and extent of the fire would have represented a significant risk to life had the residents not evacuated.
The fire caused considerable damage to the three-story building, including completely destroying the roof and the top floor which contained four flats. The building was left unfit for habitation and had to be subsequently demolished. The fire service’s investigation into the fire found that the fire stopping within the roof was inadequate.
The fire took just 17 minutes to rip through the building after starting on a balcony in one of the 12 flats – destroying the entirety of some residents’ possessions and homes.
In addition to this, the neighbouring block and houses which made up the entirety of the site, remained unoccupied until remedial safety works could be carried out. Residents have recently discovered that it is the intention of Guinness to demolish all homes at Pankhurst Avenue. This further supports the families’ belief their homes were unsafe.
Whilst the cause of the fire was accidental, the families believe the extent of the fire could have been prevented had the building been properly designed and/or constructed which would have prevented the rapid spread of fire. In addition to this, had Guinness undertaken proper investigations these defects could have been identified earlier.
The families are now investigating a potential claim against the Guinness Partnership, one of the UK’s Largest Housing Associations, and others, supported by social justice law firm, Hodge Jones and Allen.
In the report following their investigation, East Sussex Fire and Rescue stated: “Fire Action notices were in the communal stairwells which advised occupants to stay in their flats…it appears occupants did not pay heed to this advice and evacuated immediately…the speed and extent of the fire development showed this to be a rather fortuitous move.”
Thousands of properties across the UK have been impacted by defective fire safety measures, causing a series of fires, the most prominent of which was the tragic events at Grenfell Tower in 2017, in which 72 people lost their lives.
The Brighton-based families have launched a crowdfunding page, on the Crowd Justice platform, to help cover legal fees and third-party costs: https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/justice-for-pankhurst/
The families said: “There are still thousands of families across the UK living with the worry of unsafe and dangerous cladding. When our homes were destroyed in 2019, we never expected to still be continuing our fight for justice at the loss of our homes, treasured possessions, and the trauma of having to flee from a burning building in fear of our lives.
“In order to stand up to large organisations like The Guinness Partnership, we are calling for members of the public to help us with our campaign, if they can, showing landlords that they cannot get away with ignoring safety concerns.
“If our challenge is successful, this could spur action and help rectify this blight on our nation’s homes.”
Brenel Menezes, an Associate at Hodge Jones and Allen who is representing the families said: “For too long the former residents of Pankhurst Avenue have had their questions about what led to the destruction of their homes ignored. It is clear that this building did not meet fire safety standards – and we believe this is down to the negligence of The Guinness Partnership, and others. The time for waiting patiently for an explanation is over, the families deserve answers.”
Members of the public who would like to donate to the legal bid are invited to visit the resident’s page on Crowd Justice:https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/justice-for-pankhurst/
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