COMMENT: Westwell of Ely by Rosemary Westwell

PUBLISHED: 15:34 19 June 2017

Ely Standard columnist Rosemary Westwell,

Ely Standard columnist Rosemary Westwell,

Archant

How dare they play with people’s lives! It has taken the recent Grenfell Tower catastrophe to show that many organisations that are responsible for our safety are useless.

So many times when questioned they respond with: ‘Our plans fit in with building regulations’. In other words, they do not care what anyone says, they have done the minimum and that is all they are prepared to do. The building regulations are obviously not fit for purpose.

They appear to favour the builders rather than the residents. For example, they suggest that it is quite all right to design a block of flats with only one means of escape. Indeed, the regulations I found said that it is the norm. What is the matter with them?

Common sense says much more needs to be done. If the design of a building provides only one exit in case of fire, it should be rejected. Surely that single escape route could be blocked by fire?

In addition, inflammable (not merely ‘fire resistant’) materials need to be used, sprinklers should be provided and methods of escape through windows devised. In 2009 a judge wrote to the government recommending fitting sprinklers to high rise buildings. His advice was unheeded because our politicians delayed talking about this seemingly ‘unimportant’ matter. Even now, when buildings need them, politicians STILL hesitate. Measures against fire are bound to cost money, but what value is a life? Very little it seems if you are in a big organization intent on making huge profits. Some of them are so arrogant that even though people living in the homes they have provided complain that there have been no recent fire safety checks and that certain aspects of their buildings are a fire risk, nothing is done.

We may criticize social media sites but at least people can use them to air their complaints so there is no excuse for organizations pretending they do not know about them.

Also, It is all very well having very expensive reviews after horrific events saying that ‘lessons will be learned’, if they had got their act together and sorted out the problems quickly beforehand, these reviews would never have had to happen. What money they had would have been used much more sensibly.

Even in our homes, one local caught double glazers trying to put in windows that would not open wide enough for the slimmest child to get through in case of fire.

They had to be made to change the windows. If the local had not stepped in, who knows what could have happened? Did the double glazing company care? The local has not used this firm again.

Those who provide accommodation for people should have enough nous to make keeping the people safe their top priority. Our councils should stop handing over such responsibility to profiteering private companies and look after their citizens themselves.

Councils should regularly inspect buildings properly during the building process, insisting on the right materials and safety precautions, not sit back on their laurels and blame someone else, or simply hide when catastrophe strikes.

This is a wake-up call for all councillors to stop waffling and postponing worrying problems,. They should concentrate NOW and sort them out NOW. We need fewer hollow words and more positive and immediate action.

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