Spread of Fire: risk assurance

This page has been prepared for Councillor Paul Church (Deputy Cabinet Member for Adult Social Services and Public Health, West End Ward).


There is a boundary that separates the rear of the residences in Middleton Place and the rear of the office block at 84-86 Great Portland Street. This boundary consists of two walls built back-to-back. One wall is owned by the office block, the other by the residents of Middleton Place:

The office wall is a consistent height along its length. The height of the residents’ wall varies and in places it is higher than the office wall while in other places it is lower.

In 2016/2017 the office landlords (Great Portland Estates) carried out construction work on their wall, including the insertion of steel beams into the wall. These steel beams broke through the office wall and meet the residents’ wall.

The residents are seeking assurance that this construction work complies with ‘The Building Regulations 2010, Fire Safety’ (link to official document here).

Agreed Facts

Great Portland Estates (GPE) have agreed that their wall is of existing masonry construction and that it has been modified by the setting of new steelwork into the wall.

Additionally, in his email of 3rd February 2016, John Pitman of Butler & Young, the Approved Inspectors appointed by GPE, has indicated that this modification falls under Section 13.13 of the Building Regulations 2010, Fire Safety:

Mr Pitman’s email does address part (a) of Section 13.13.  However, it does not address part (b) which stipulates that the wall be “fire-resisting from both sides”:

The residents believe that the wall is not fire-resisting from both sides. Consequently we are seeking assurance that:

  • either, Section 13.13 of the Building Regulations 2010 (Spread of Fire) does not apply,
  • or, the work on the wall is compliant with the regulations,
  • or, that it is not compliant but it has been assessed and is not considered a risk,
  • or, that it is not compliant and remedial work will be undertaken.


It doesn’t seem like a lot to ask, yet our surveyor Mark Behan has been seeking this specific information since January 2017 and has not had a satisfactory response from GPE or its representatives.

GPE had been covering Mark’s costs as part of the project but Mark wrote to us recently to say “they are not going to pay for any of my time to look at building Act/Regs matters”.

Westminster Council (in particular Chidi Freeman) have been helpful but unfortunately the works in question were not overseen by Westminster District Surveyors. In the absence of a satisfactory response from GPE, the Council have advised us to seek assurance directly from Butler & Young, the approved inspectors appointed by GPE (application 15.02475.IN):

Butler & Young Ltd
Unit 10 Airport House
Purley Way
Tel: 0203 384 7730

Cllr Paul Church has kindly agreed to make the request for this assurance on behalf of the residents.


The Night No One Slept

It finally happened last night: there was so much noise from different businesses throughout the night of Tuesday 20th September through to the morning of Wednesday 21st September that IT WAS IMPOSSIBLE FOR RESIDENTS TO SLEEP.

It started at 11:30pm with the Yorkshire Grey pub where the new landlords have completely failed to keep the drinkers under control this summer:

This was followed by emergency drain cleaning at the Riding House Cafe. (Can it be coincidental that the emergencies always happen outside of restaurant opening hours?) The works began just after midnight and lasted until 3.45am. The frequent starting and stopping of the pressure pumps woke people as far a way as Langham Street:

Finally, to cap it all, a rubbish collection truck somewhere in the Langham Street / Great Titchfield Street area woke everyone at 5:45am.  This wasn’t captured on video but the next collection (same truck?) was – 10 minutes later at the University in Riding House Street:

Is this the new reality for the residents of Fitzrovia?  Can it really be acceptable for businesses to interupt our sleep so they can make more money?

A fundamentally unsound pavement

The Council came to investigate the void under the paving on Wednesday 27 April thanks to our direct contact with Jonathan Rowing (Head of Road Management, Westminster Council) and the intervention of Cllr. Jonathan Glanz.

The area was fenced off for 24 hours pending emergency repairs:

Day Before (2016-04-27 18.19.22)

The repair work was carried out on Thursday 28th April. By the next day, the repair had failed.  One of the replaced paving slabs has become loose and rocks when pedestrians step on it. It now presents a serious trip hazard directly in front of the door to Number 7 as this video shows:

These recurring problems are caused by a pavement that does not meet basic standards.  Countless workmen have told us that the pavement has been laid without bedding or sub-base and that, as a result, any repairs are doomed to fail.

Patching a fundamentally unsound pavement is a waste of the Council’s time and money.  Hopefully they will repair the pavement properly and permanently in the near future.


Water now pooling at south end of Middleton Place

Hot on the heels of the pavement erosion problem caused by water pooling at the north (Langham Street) end of Middleton Place, we now have the same issue at the south end, as this photo illustrates:

Pooling at the Other End (2016-04-29 11.28.36)

We know from previous experience that this problem will continue to grow until it becomes a major issue and the Council are called out to make another repair.

We also know that these recurring problems are caused by a pavement that does not meet basic standards.  We have been told by countless workmen, from the Council to Thames Water to FM Conway, that the pavement has been laid without bedding or sub-base and that we will continue to be plagued by problems until this is remedied.


Even if the water was reaching the drain, it wouldn’t help.  The drain is blocked solid, as this photo shows:

Blocked Drain (2016-04-29 11.28.53)

Presumably, once again, Middleton Place has “fallen off” the Council’s drain cleaning schedule.


The cement you see around the rim of the drain (which is now helping to prevent the water running into it) was laid by the Council in August 2014 when they came to patch up numerous trip hazards in the Place. Ironically, this is the only fix that hasn’t worked loose in the past 20 months.

More proof, if it was needed, that patching a fundamentally unsound pavement is a waste of time and money.

More pavement problems…

The Middleton Place pavement is about to collapse – for the second time this year! (See our previous post for photos of the February collapse.)

Clive Carsley alerted Thames Water about the trip hazard back in February but they’ve done nothing to date.  Since then the trip hazard has grown into another full blown void under the paving stones.

2016-04-11 19.32.18

2016-04-11 19.32.01

Gordon Tees has been in touch with Councillor Jonathan Glanz (email forwarded to all residents) who is refering the issue to the relevant Council officers and will update us as soon as he has heard further.

The tree lives!

After nearly two years of showing no signs of life what-so-ever (we first wrote to Paul Akers, Arboricultural Manager at City Hall, to request a replacement on 19th July 2014), the tree is blossoming beautifully.

Many congratulations must go to Dr Sardar Ahmed who never gave up on the tree and has clearly nursed it back to life.

Middleton Place Tree

We have written to Mr Akers to tell him the good news and to let him know that he can remove the replacement of the tree from his to-do list.