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Faults in Newmarket apartment block The Grosvenor ‘pose serious threat to life’, West Suffolk Council says as 24-hour fire patrol is implemented

A block of Newmarket flats has been deemed so dangerous a 24-hour fire patrol is in place to keep residents safe.

West Suffolk Council has confirmed that it is investigating the breach of building regulations at The Grosvenor, a development of 36 one and two-bedroom luxury apartments which were officially opened in 2018.

And it said the contraventions it had found to date were ‘extremely significant and pose a serious threat to life’.

The Grosvenor block of flats in Newmarket
The Grosvenor block of flats in Newmarket

In a letter sent to tenants of the building, Rachel Almond, the authority’s service manager for planning and development, said a report it commissioned from a specialist firm provided ‘detailed evidence of numerous areas within the building where there is non-compliance with the fire safety requirements of the building regulations 2010’.

She added: “The evidence before the council indicates that there is a fundamental and systematic issue with the construction of the building, particularly with regards to the fire resisting compartmentation.

“Given the residential use of the building this poses an unacceptable risk to the safety of the building’s occupants and must be rectified without delay.”

The letter stated the developer, the Murfet Group, had told the council a team of specialist contractors was being employed to work through a phased plan of remedial works, the first phase of which included the installation of an upgraded fire communal alarm system linked to all flats.

This, according to Ms Almond, should ‘enable immediate simultaneous evacuation rather than the waking watch currently in place and provide a more permanent solution to ensure safety’.

The council has now threatened to take legal action to ensure the work is done quickly and that could take the form of an application for a court order requiring the alterations be carried out and proceedings to be taken against the developer.

In a statement, Lors Homes, which owns the site, said: “We are disappointed and surprised that the local authority alleges we have not kept them up to date in relation to The Grosvenor development.

“We have sought to work collaboratively and positively with them throughout this process.

"We are continuing to proceed with the works that are clearly defined and are committed to achieve compliance in all areas of fire safety.

“However, we still require clear guidance from the local authority on the actual issue of compliance on a few outstanding elements and over the last 12 months have sought to resolve with the council and its consultants those remaining works which are considered non-compliant.

“We can confirm that a ‘waking watch’ has been in place since the end of January 2020 and we continue to operate this waking watch for the protection of the residents until all the works are completed.

“With regards to the fire alarm extension, it has been made clear to us that this is a recommendation as some voids would need detection.

"Additionally, however we have presented amended plans for approval by the local authority fire consultant that would compartmentalise the void space which would then remove the need for an alarm.

“We take all these concerns very seriously as developers and are determined continue to work with the local authority and Suffolk Fire Service to ensure the safety and well-being of the residents.”

The building was formerly De Niro’s nightclub, which was the largest of its kind in East Anglia until its then owner, Terry Lake, put it up for sale with an asking price of £2.1 million.

The building was formerly De Niro's nightclub - pictured here in 2012
The building was formerly De Niro's nightclub - pictured here in 2012

Local organisations mounted a campaign to keep the building for community use and there was even a suggestion the local authority buy it and turn it back into a cinema for the town, which it had once been.

Suffolk News approached four residents of the building asking them if they wished to comment and all declined.

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