44 flats evicted in Harlow after serious fire safety concerns

44 flats were evicted with immediate effect following fire serious fire hazard concerns
-Credit: (Image: GoogleMaps)

Residents living in Joseph Rank House in Harlow town centre have been evicted following concerns raised by Essex County Fire and Rescue Service about health and safety breaches. Residents are now being supported following the issue of a prohibition notice on the building.

The prohibition notice was served on Places for People, the owners of the building, on the evening of Thursday, June 27. It means that the residents living in the 44 occupied flats had to move out from 9am on Friday, June 28. The residents affected are being supported by Places for People, Harlow Council, and other agencies working in partnership including Essex County Council, Essex Police, and health partners.

READ MORE: 40 people homeless as home shuts down over 'serious health and safety risks'

READ MORE: Harlow arts centre quarter to get £20 million revamp

Places for People said: “We have been working closely with Essex County Fire and Rescue Service since we announced the closure of Joseph Rank House 18 months ago. The agreed plan, originally to take place over three years, shortened by Places for People to two, was that we would support the residents to move to new homes. Two-thirds of former residents are now in new homes.

"The plan also included a range of fire safety measures and early warning systems to reduce fire risk and aid evacuation. In addition to the installation of sprinklers, we installed evacuation alarms and ensured on site 24-hour security personnel to aid evacuation. However, ECFRS now has a new perspective on the building, which has led to the Notice and the forced evacuation.”

Dan Partridge, Essex County Fire and Rescue Service's Area Manager, Prevention and Protection said: “We have issued a prohibition notice against Joseph Rank House, Harlow. This means the owners for the building must ask residents to evacuate the building immediately as we believe there is a threat to life related to fire safety.

“Essex County Fire and Rescue Service will only ever serve a prohibition notice when it is absolutely necessary. We never want people to lose their homes, but our responsibility is to keep people safe and protect them from the risk of fire.

“In this instance we are clear that the property does not meet fire regulations. Specifically, we believe if there was a fire in the building there is potential for rapid smoke spread both internally and externally. This would mean residents would not be able to evacuate safely and this would put residents at a higher risk of serious injury or death.

“It would therefore have been highly irresponsible for our Service not to immediately prohibit the use of the building.”

Councillor Dan Swords, Leader of Harlow Council, said: “Harlow Council is working closely with the building owner Places for People and other partners to support all the affected residents. From the time we were advised of the formal decision by Essex Fire Rescue, our teams have been working around the clock to ensure we are ready to assist.”

Places for People stated: “Our absolute focus and priority is on the wellbeing of our Customers and the other residents of the building. We’re partnering with Harlow Council to ensure we help all residents through this difficult time and find suitable alternative temporary and permanent accommodation as quickly as possible.”