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Ron Alalouff is a journalist specialising in the fire and security markets, and a former editor of websites and magazines in the same fields.
August 21, 2023

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Six companies charged with fire safety offences for blaze which destroyed Cheshire retirement village

In a highly complex case, six companies have been charged with offences under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 following a fire which destroyed a retirement village in 2019, as Ron Alalouff reports.

The fire at Beechmere retirement complex in 2019 (Credit: Cheshire Fire & Rescue Service)

More than 150 residents lost their homes and possessions in the August 2019 fire at Beechmere retirement village in Crewe, one of the biggest ever incidents attended by Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service.

As a result of what it describes as a “long and complex” investigation, the fire service has charged six companies with various offences under the legislation. The companies being prosecuted are:

  • Advantage (Cheshire) Ltd: Contracted to procure the design, build and finance of Beechmere and the operation of the village (Advantage is a subsidiary of Your Housing Ltd)
  • Your Housing Ltd: Employed staff at the retirement village and as such, was the responsible person for fire safety measures, as defined by Article 3(a) of the Fire Safety Order 2005
  • Morgan Sindall Property Services Ltd: The facilities management subcontractor to Advantage, with responsibility for responsive repairs and cyclical maintenance
  • WSP UK Ltd: Contracted to produce a detailed fire strategy in 2007, and in 2008 produce an operational fire safety manual and carry out a fire risk assessment of Beechmere.
  • Total Fire Group Ltd: Contracted to carry out fire risk assessments in August 2017 and August 2018 at both Beechmere and Hazelmere retirement villages
  • MAC Roofing and Contractors Ltd: Contracted by Morgan Sindall Property Services to undertake roofing works at Beechmere between 6 and 8 August 2019

Editor’s note: Further details of the exact charges against each company can be found on Cheshire Fire & Rescue Services website, here >>

“Since 2019, the service has worked tirelessly to investigate the cause of the fire and establish any potential breaches of fire safety legislation,” said a spokesperson for Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service. “This has been a long and complex process owing to the scale of the fire and the number of parties involved in designing, building, maintaining and managing the building.”

A number of charges for breaches of the legislation have also been brought in connection with another retirement village – Hazelmere in Winsford – which were discovered during the investigation at Beechmere. Work to rectify these issues has already been carried out at Hazelmere and at other retirement complexes that were built to the same design specification and managed by Your Housing.

Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service said it is “satisfied” that fire risk in these properties is now “appropriately managed”.

Additional £40 million civil case charges

In a separate £40 million civil action following the fire at Beechmere, proceedings have been brought by the freeholder of the village, Cheshire East Borough Council, the PFI contractor, Advantage, and the leaseholder of the property, Your Housing against those involved in the design and construction of the retirement village.

They are PRP Architects Holdings Ltd, fire safety engineers WSP UK Ltd, structural contractors Prestoplan Ltd, clerk of works Mascot Management Ltd, and GB Solutions Ltd. GB Solutions is a former subsidiary of Gleeson and was dissolved in 2018 before the fire. Gleeson has no active role in the court proceedings.

The three claimants are seeking damages of £40 million for “alleged deficiencies in the design and construction of the property – including the absence of compartmentation, cavity barriers and sprinklers – resulting in a failure to inhibit the spread of fire.” The court case has now been postponed until April 2024 after efforts to resolve the dispute fell through.

A Cheshire East Council spokesperson said: “Aviva PLC is pursuing a claim on behalf of Cheshire East Council, following the fire at the Beechmere care complex in August 2019.

Whilst litigation is ongoing, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”

This article was first published on SHP’s sister site for fire and security news – IFSEC Insider. 

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