Barton House: 'Significant' failings in evacuated tower block

An aeriel view of Barton House
Barton House in Bristol was built in 1958

Fire and electrical inspection reports of an evacuated tower block have shown "significant" failings in the building.

On Tuesday, more than 400 residents were forced to leave Barton House in Bristol.

A report from August shows routine safety checks were not carried out and fire prevention measures were either not in place or built to standard.

Bristol City Council (BCC) said original design plans were not followed during construction in 1958.

Building surveys carried out on the council-owned building showed the tower block would be unsafe in the event of a fire or explosion, prompting the evacuation.

Surveys of three flats out of the 98 indicate Barton House was not constructed in line with its design.

People standing in the dark outside a tower block with lights on
Bristol City Council declared a major incident on Tuesday

BCC said: "These surveys have revealed an apparent lack of structural ties between the floors and the load-bearing external walls.

"Investigation also uncovered lower fire resistance of these structural elements and less concrete cover than set out in the original plans for the floors."

According to a risk assessment, the fire alarm system is not regularly serviced and tested, the ventilation system does not have the correct fire resistance and the hoppers which stop smoke are not fixed with sufficient seals.

Andrew Tarling, a chartered surveyor with expertise in fire safety and building construction, said: "People living in high rise properties are reliant on compartmentation - separation from one place to another - to maintain fire resistance for a period of time.

"A lot of the structures are not properly maintained, they weren't built correctly, they are altered so that they no longer perform and it's wear and tear.."

A queue of residents waiting to get bus
Residents were left scrambling to find somewhere to stay

Mr Tarling said cuts in staffing and negligence of training are to blame for the "extremely widespread" issues.

"In the past, things worked, then came the 60s, then came problems", he said.

"The government should've taken prompt action back in 1967, but they washed their hands with it.

"The government should've taken prompt action long before Grenfell happened, after Lakanal House fire and other fires, but they washed their hands with it.

"They should've taken prompt action in sorting out the building regulations but they didn't."

A spokesperson from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said its Building Safety Act - introduced after Grenfell - created a regulator to assess the safety and standards of all buildings.

That regulator "actively monitors structural and fire risks across the built environment and advises government on any action that may be needed".

Since evacuations began on Tuesday, 61 households have been moved into hotel accommodation and 14 remain with family and friends. Six households continue to occupy their properties, BCC said.

A webpage has been set up to provide help and information for Barton House residents.

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