'Urgent action' as Portsmouth flats found to have fire safety defects in lift shaft, fire doors and in communal areas

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URGENT works are under way at a six-storey block of flats after fire safety defects were found in a lift and doors.

People living at Sir Robert Peel House are being guarded by a 24-hour fire marshal as the alarm system is overhauled and the work is carried out.

Darren Barnett has concerns that fire safety is not up to scratch at the block at Sir Robert Peel House, Portsmouth. Fire marshals have been put in place since he complained about a fire alarm ringing for 20 hours on April 8-9. Picture: Habibur Rahman

Darren Barnett has concerns that fire safety is not up to scratch at the block at Sir Robert Peel House, Portsmouth. Fire marshals have been put in place since he complained about a fire alarm ringing for 20 hours on April 8-9. Picture: Habibur Rahman

The four-week programme of works by owner Hyde Housing is nearing completion but has shocked residents, who live just yards away from Horatia House where cladding was ripped away by Portsmouth City Council in the wake of the Grenfell blaze.

Evacuation plans at the building have changed in the event of a fire. Residents had been told to stay put in the event. But they are now told to pack a ‘grab bag’ ready as there would be a full evacuation.

Bosses were spurred into action after a ‘full in-depth’ check was carried out in March. Hyde wrote to residents about the lift and warden patrol in May. Fire doors are being repaired or replaced.

In a letter property works manager with responsibility for fire safety, Darren Marr, said: ‘Your safety is our priority and we need to carry out urgent works to ensure that you are protected in the event of a fire.’

Resident Darren Barnett, 36, lives at the block with his partner Kelly Turner, 29, and their two children. He has been offered £350 compensation after complaining about the situation – including when a fire alarm sounded for 20 hours in April.

He said: ‘It will be the residents that will have to suffer the most through fatalities or loss.

‘The message to Hyde is it’s unacceptable to be putting people's lives at risk, no matter how severe, or how big, small the level of security is.’

Brent O’Halloran, director of asset management at Hyde, said a full fire risk assessment was carried out in March by a consultancy. It is responding to findings.

He said: ‘Whilst we are upgrading the alarm systems, as an added safety precaution we have a waking watch in place. A recommendation was that we now have a simultaneous evacuation policy in place, which means upgrading all our fire systems in our customers’ homes and in all communal areas.’