Bedford landlord fined for lack of fire safety at town centre office block

Broadway House, Bedford
Broadway House, Bedford

The owner of an office block in Bedford town centre has been fined for ignoring a fire safety order after failing an inspection by Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service (BFRS).

A Risk-Based Inspection Programme (under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005) at Broadway House, Bedford, took place in June 2019.

Fire safety officers found a number of failings:

  • The Fire Risk Assessment had not been reviewed since December 2015
  • The external fire escape was in a poor state of repair with steps missing
  • Numerous fire-resisting doors within the building were in a poor statement of repair
  • The fire alarm system was inadequate for the risk
  • There were inadequate fire exit signs and fire action notices
  • No evidence that the firefighting equipment, fire alarm and emergency lighting systems had been maintained.

The owner Mrs J Lusty, along with Mr D Lusty who was named as the responsible person for fire safety matters, was given two months to rectify the issues.

While Mr Lusty said that he would address the issues but a later inspection in October of the same year found no significant improvement.

A further visit by BFRS in February 2020 still found no further action had been taken so an Enforcement Notice was served on Mrs Lusty as the owner giving them three months to address the issues.

A follow-up inspection showed that whilst new firefighting equipment had been provided, all other actions in the notice had been ignored.

A spokesperson for BFRS said: “These failings in fire safety measures placed one or more persons at risk of serious injury or death should a fire occur, and prosecution proceedings were instigated.”

On 21 January 2022 Mr Lusty appeared at Luton Magistrates court charged with four offences of the Fire Safety Order, in that:

  • The Fire Risk Assessment had not been reviewed since December 2015 and as such did not assess the risks to which relevant persons were exposed to
  • The fire warning system was inadequate for the premises and as such persons within the building would not receive a timely warning should a fire occur
  • The external fire escape was in a poor state of repair with broken and missing treads that could result in injury to those having to use it
  • A number of fire doors were in a poor state of repair with broken and missing locks and gaps in the doors that would allow the passage of smoke and flames affecting the ability of the occupants to escape should a fire occur.

Mr Lusty pleaded guilty to all offences.

At sentencing last week (18 March), the Magistrate stated “there was a history of non-compliance going back to 2015” they highlighted how fire safety had been headline news over the past few years and that “failure to provide adequate fire safety measures was a serious offence”.

A fine was imposed of £10,000 for each of the four offences, a total fine of £40,000. Full costs of £10,525 were awarded to BFRS.

Speaking about the case, Chief Fire Officer, Andrew Hopkinson said: “This prosecution sends out a clear message to landlords that if you do not comply with the required fire safety regulations then we are prepared to take enforcement action to keep people safe.

“This individual didn’t comply with the law and left their tenants at serious risk by affecting the ability of the occupants to safely escape should a fire occur.

“It is our role at Beds Fire to ensure that our communities are safe, we will look to provide support and advice where required, but if people are put at risk, then we will not hesitate in taking further action.

“Several serious offences were committed by the landlord and the Magistrate recognised this in his judgement and in the level of fines imposed.”

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