Tenants demand answers over ‘death trap’ new-build flats on Leith Walk

Tenants in a block of new-build flats are demanding to be moved into temporary accommodation and for a full explanation as to how their homes failed fire safety tests months after they moved in.
Artist's impression of The Engine Yar development on Leith Walk.Artist's impression of The Engine Yar development on Leith Walk.
Artist's impression of The Engine Yar development on Leith Walk.

A letter sent by a group of tenants, in Block A of the Engine Yard development in Shrubhill to developers Places for People set out the demands following the revelation that 47 of 60 flats failed the safety test.

Concerns about potential other defects in the buildings were also raised in the letter, which was also sent to the city council, the Scottish Government and Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.

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It is not clear how many tenants were involved in writing in the letter, and it is understood the letter has not yet been received by the developer.

The developers have said the safety of tenants is the priority while the council insists the buildings are safe to live in.

The letter states: “There should be no fire risk at the building, and given people, families with young children, have been living here since February, you have put every single one of them at risk.

“Given the council signed this building off with such a serious fire regulations not being met, tenants have zero confidence and we require full evidence that the block is safe.”

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One tenant, who wished to remain anonymous, said those who live in the block did not want to stay in a “death trap”.

They said: “There is a concern that if the council could sign off the property with fire regulations being missed, have they signed it off with a lot of building defects as we certainly are experiencing a lot of issues.

“Regardless of how big or small that risk is, any fire safety risk is not acceptable.”

They added that several tenants in the building did not have English as their first language, potentially meaning some are not aware of the fire safety test failures.

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They said: “Most tenants I’ve spoken to want to know if it is in fact safe for us to live here.

“I think most people feel they have to keep paying their rent, we have no option but to stay in what realistically could be a death trap as we have no offer of alternative accommodation, nor have we seen any evidence its safe to stay.

“There is no confidence in repairs being completed in the six-week timescale they state and who is going to check that and sign it off?”

A spokesman for Places for People said: “We are liaising with tenants individually and will support them with any questions or concerns they have.

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“The safety of tenants is our priority. There are a number of safety measures in place in the building, including hard wired smoke alarms, sprinkler systems, a non-combustible layer of plasterboard on the ceiling, safe routes of escape and 24-hour site security.

“Additional measures are also being put in place while works are undertaken, including a mobile fire alarm station on every floor and additional on-site staff presence, to ensure appropriate mitigating measures are present in the building while the works are completed.”

A City of Edinburgh Council spokesman said: “Residents’ safety in their homes is a critical priority for the council and we expect developers to comply fully with building regulations.

“Plans were checked thoroughly before the building warrant was granted.

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“We carried out a number of site inspections to check that building regulations were being complied with, however it is not possible for us be on site all of the time and to check every aspect of a building.

They added: “The existing fire safety measures in this particular building and the additional measures now in place lead us to conclude that the building is safe to occupy.

“We welcome the fact that the developer has put in place a plan to carry out the remaining works required and we will inspect these remedial works to make sure they’ve been done properly.”