Councillor 'deeply shocked' over safety issues at city flats

St Peter's House in Norwich Picture: Denise Bradley

St Peter's House in Norwich Picture: Denise Bradley - Credit: Archant 2013

A senior councillor has described the need to evacuate a block of flats over a series of safety concerns as "deeply shocking".

Beth Jones, Norwich city councillor with responsibility for housing, said she was also "disappointed" that the residents who were forced to leave the privately-owned St Peter's House, near to the castle, had yet to be allowed back home.

The apartment block, in Cattle Market Street, was deemed unsafe by council officers in April, after several safety issues were highlighted.

All those living in its 53 flats were forced to move out.

Since then, the landlord Cattle Market Limited has been working to ensure the building's safety issues are addressed.

Ms Jones told a full council meeting at City Hall this week: “Five years after the Grenfell tragedy the case of St Peter’s House was deeply shocking, with a large property in central Norwich being occupied without any power, working fire protection or alarm systems and many serious breaches of building and housing regulations.

"This necessitated rapid action from many council officers to address a clearly dangerous situation and provide considerable support to those displaced."

Ms Jones added: "It is disappointing that two months following the action we took to keep residents safe that the developer of the block has not taken the action necessary for us to lift the Emergency Prohibition Order and get leaseholders and tenants back into their flats."

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The Grenfell Tower tragedy saw more than 70 people die and another 70 injured after a fire broke out on June 14, 2017, at the west London apartment block.

St Peter's House was found to have "serious hazards and deficiencies", with electrics in the former Aviva office building not connected in line with the requirements for residential development.

In recent months, the city council has railed against how easy it is for offices to be converted into housing, calling for extra powers from the government.

Labour councillors Matthew and Erin Fulton-McAlister. Picture: David Hannant

Erin Fulton-McAlister (left) raised concerns about St Peter's House at a council meeting on tuesday - Credit: Archant

The issue was raised at the meeting on Tuesday by Erin Fulton-McAlister, a Labour councillor for the Wensum ward where she asked what action the council was taking.

Beth Jones from The Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk protest taking place in Norwich centre.

Norwich City Council cabinet member for private sector housing Beth Jones. - Credit: Steve Adams

However, Ms Jones said she could not comment further while an investigation was being carried out.

Power has been reconnected to the vacant block but other safety works remain outstanding.

In May, Ori Calif, of GWO & Co, an adviser to the landlord, said work was taking place to install sprinklers and fire stop protection in the ceilings of each apartment. 

Around 20 of the flats in St Peter's House are inhabited by leaseholders and Mr Calif said the landlord is in the process of getting consent from them to carry out the fire safety requirements in their rooms.