Urgent repairs ordered as Leith Walk new-build flats don't meet fire safety regulations

An artist's impression of the Engine Yard development on Leith Walk
An artist's impression of the Engine Yard development on Leith Walk
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Emergency repair work has been urgently ordered at new flats on Leith Walk to upgrade steel beams that do not meet fire safety regulations.

Developers informed the city council’s building standards department that 47 of 60 flats in a block of the £75m Engine Yard development at Shrubhill, are affected. The owners, Places for People, have been told to increase the 24-hour management presence in the block and install a mobile fire alarm station on each floor until the work, expected to take five to six weeks, is completed.

In a letter, which will be sent to tenants, Places For People warn residents that “steelwork forming the structure of your building needs to be provided with additional fire protection to ensure it meets the required standards”.

The council insists the properties are safe for tenants to remain living in. Council officers previously approved the development’s building warrant paperwork.

A spokesperson from Places for People said: “Relatively small sections of steelwork in a completed block of flats at the Engine Yard may require to be encased in an additional layer of non-combustible plasterboard and we have instigated a thorough programme of works to ensure that homes fully meet the requirements of the building regulations.

“We have identified 47 properties which require inspection to establish where remedial works are required and are working with tenants to complete this programme as efficiently as possible.”

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A local councillor has called for an explanation from the developer as to why the fire regulations have not been adhered to.

Green Cllr Susan Rae said: “With the terrible tragedy of Grenfell still casting a long shadow, I am astonished that there should be any failings in the fire safety of newly-built flats.

“Developer, Places for People, need to answer for this. With new developments springing up all over Leith this news doesn’t instil confidence. Meanwhile, I sincerely hope that all the residents who are affected at Shrubhill are informed quickly and that the work to put it right is done swiftly and efficiently.”

Once all blocks are completed, the Engine Yard will include 376 apartments and 12 penthouses.

A city council spokesperson, said: “Building warrant plans were reviewed and approved by the council’s building standards team.

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“All homes already benefit from fire detection and suppression systems. All flats have hardwired automatic smoke alarms, sprinkler systems and a layer of non-combustible plasterboard on the ceiling. The block has external deck access leading to a firefighting shaft which provides a safe route of escape and protection in the event of an emergency.”

Last year, a Scottish Government “improvement team” was sent into the council’s building standards department due to concerns over paperwork. At the lowest point, in late 2016, the council’s building standards division was meeting the 20-day target for processing initial applications in just ten per cent of cases instead of the required 94 per cent.

Conservative housing spokesperson, Cllr Jim Campbell, said: “I am very thankful that the developers themselves identified the safety shortcoming, and have put in place a programme to bring the building up to the required fire safety standard.

“I think its really important that building standards in Edinburgh gives the city a full service, as it moves out of the special measures the Scottish Government had imposed, and it is resourced to do so. We really need all developments checked as they are being built, to give us confidence that safety standards are being met. Without that, even the tightest safety standards would still be open to abuse by the unscrupulous.”