Queensway residents given option to move out after doors fail fire standards

PUBLISHED: 17:30 28 June 2019

The front door of Queensway House. Picture: Charlotte McLaughlin

The front door of Queensway House. Picture: Charlotte McLaughlin

Archant

Residents of Queensway House in Hatfield town centre have been given the option to move out after the tower block's doors were deemed to not meet fire safety standards.

Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council, which owns the tower block, started fire warden patrols last Friday to ensure safety.

"The new flat front doors we installed from 2016 carry the existing British Standards certification but, in response to concerns nationally, we took the decision to send the doors for further testing," the council said in a letter to residents.

"During these tests, the doors did not meet full fire resistance standards."

READ MORE: Residents say they feel 'unsafe' at Hatfield's Queensway House

The letter appreciates residents may have concerns about fire safety and have given those who want to the option to move out, but with the caveat "as soon as practically possible".

A resident - who did not want to be named and will take the council up on the offer to move - has reacted to this news with questions about WHBC. They said: "I am very much in favour of this because I now feel unsafe with everything that's going on [but] there's something WHBC are not telling us about the building.

"Why all of a sudden have a fire warden, do they think the residents are stupid and dont know how to evacuate via stairwells?

"And why have they not introduced themselves to residents so we know who they are and not just another rough sleeper using the stairwells as a toilet."

READ MORE: Queensway House residents tell of damp and mould in renovations

In response a WHBC spokeswoman said, "We have been completely open with residents about the reason for the patrols, fully explaining why we took the decision to put them in place last week."

Mould, maintenace and damp issues have been an ongoing problem for the tower block for quite some time and WHBC has said it is working to fix these issues still.

"We are working hard to address the bathroom ventilation issue in flats as quickly as possible," WHBC told the paper in May.

The problem has been due to the council's decision to fill in the bathroom windows due to fire safety issues.

Luke Aiken, who recently moved out due to health problems, believes this decision made him sick.

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"After they took the windows out my breathing got so bad due to the lack of ventilation coursing through, which caused the damp and the mould for the last three years of living there," Mr Aiken said.

WHBC has maintained: "The purpose of infilling the windows was to stop a fire spreading between individual flats and the communal areas."

"However, because the bathroom windows have been in-filled there is a need for an extraction system to remove moisture from the bathroom.

Since 2017, the council has been working on a way to fit the best extractor system that allows "effective extraction, maintains fire integrity, minimises disruption to residents during the installation process, and minimises the impact on the resident's property once fitted".

WHBC has said, "If residents are concerned while they wait for the extractor system to be fitted, council officers will be pleased to visit to discuss the issue" and provide them with a dehumidifer.

But Mr Aiken thinks it is a bit late and is now waiting for an appointment at Royal Brompton Hospital about having a heart operation.

He knows this may "not be the full reason I need an operation, but the doctors have told me it didn't do me any favours living there and has brought my health issues on a lot faster than if I didn't live there."

Furthermore, he cast questions on what happens to residents once they do get another council house.

At Mr Aiken's new house, the bad position of his kitchen counter top is causing hot food to be knocked over often, and he said "every time I have a shower the water wants to run out in the hallway".

In response the council said an inspector visited on Monday. "The case has been referred to repairs to resolve as quickly as possible," a spokeswoman said.

READ MORE: Hatfield man left without hot water for 22 days

Bill Bailey, who still has not had his boiler fixed for 29 days, said he will be staying put in Queensway.

"I'm 53 and I don't want to start moving out now," he said.

The lift, which broke down last year, is set to be up and running by Monday.

A spokeswoman said: "It is dependent on the outcome of an independent mechanical test, which is booked in for this Thursday."

READ MORE: Hatfield high-rise tenants start 2019 in temporary accommodation

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