Those living in an Ipswich block of flats feel "left in the dark" after sudden late night action resulted in them being asked to evacuate their homes due to fire risks.

One father who is among those living in 15 flats at Cardinal Lofts said he was "in shock” after fire officers asked them to leave their homes late on Tuesday evening.

It is understood the issue relates to a defect with the building's automatic opening vents and is being resolved urgently. 

Viv Sharma said that the Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service officers knocked on his door on at 10pm and asked his family to leave their home, and said some families went to Gainsborough Sports Centre. 

A prohibition notice was served to residents of floors seven to nine of the Foundary Lane flats due to fire risks while a ‘waking watch’ has been implemented for the rest of the building.

Mr Sharma said: “When we received the evacuation notice we couldn’t believe they want us to move out at this particular minute.

“They said: 'pack up your stuff, we’ll give you an hour, we’ve got coaches outside.'

“We were in shock, including my 5-year-old son Nico.”

Ipswich Star: Viv Sharma with his 5-year-old son NicoViv Sharma with his 5-year-old son Nico (Image: Supplied)

Mr Sharma said he refused to evacuate that evening and would leave on Wednesday after finding suitable accommodation for his family.

He added: “They knew about this cladding issue for years. We put fire alarms in every room of our flats and have been having waking watch for the last two years.

“I think that coming at that time of night and trying to throw your whole family out is just ridiculous.

“We should have gotten at least 24-hour notice.”

The fire service said it had "no option" but to take immediate action following an independent report into the flats as it still had concerns about the potential fire safety risks. 

Ipswich Star: Claire Hamblion owns a flat in Cardinal Lofts in Ipswich

Area manager for Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service Toby Gray said: “As part of ongoing work, we have raised fire concerns and advised how the building’s management company can resolve them. 

“This mitigation has not adequately addressed the risks posed to the upper three floors of the property, so it is in the best interest of residents in these apartments to be temporarily rehoused as a precautionary measure. 

“We will continue to work with the management company to find a resolution.” 

A spokesman for Grey GR said a full review was carried out by specialists on Monday and became aware of "heightened fire safety risks" and reported its latest concerns. 

The spokesman said it is working to resolve the issues as quickly as possible and minimise concerns and disruption for residents.

A Grey GR spokesman said: "We’re very sorry for the disruption and inconvenience this will cause, however resident safety is paramount. We are acting in accordance with the advice of the Fire and Rescue Service, and will continue to follow their advice.

"We are communicating directly with all leaseholders and have agents on the ground to support residents. We will continue to communicate as further updates become available." 

Mr Sharma who has been living at Cardinal Lofts for 14 years said that the residents have been raising their concerns for the last four years and had numerous meetings with the building management, which only resulted in the increase of service charges for the residents.

The 52-year-old resident said: “My neighbours who were evacuated yesterday have small kids, and I can’t understand how the situation from yesterday could even happen.

Ipswich Star: Alex Dickin of the newly created Ipswich Cladiators group, set up to fight the cladding crisis in the town

Alex Dickin, a resident of Cardinal Lofts and founder of Ipswich Cladiators, said: "Since 15 apartments were evacuated on Tuesday night, the managing agent and Suffolk Fire have both communicated with residents and leaseholders.

“However, the communication has been extremely vague. The report which prompted the sudden action has not been shared with us.

“Some of us have been forced away from our homes and the rest are living in a dangerous building with 24/7 patrols. Surely, we should be told why?

“Fire safety defects including unsafe cladding and faulty automatic opening vents were first discovered two years ago."

Ipswich Star: Claire Hamblion and Alex Dickin, of the Ipswich Cladiators group, set up to fight insufficient cladding in the town

Leaseholder Claire Hamblion added: “Everyone at Cardinal Lofts is still very much in the dark about what is happening and why the building was evacuated.

"We don’t know when the work to make the building safe is going to happen and we don't know how long people are going to be out of their homes.

“Everyone has been very traumatised by the situation and it's been very distressing for everybody.”

Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service is working closely with Grey GR, the management company of Cardinal Lofts to help ensure the safety of residents in the event of a fire with temporary accommodation being found for residents. 

Ipswich Star: Cllr John Cook said the company "don't do what they should be doing and what they say they are doing"

Ipswich Mayor, John Cook, said: “Obviously the council will support the people who are on the affected floors.

“There’s no enforcement mechanism to make the residents leave.

“I accept on face value the Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service are in a position to make these judgments and we should keep with the seriousness because we know what can happen in flats.

“I’m concerned about the welfare of the 15 affected householders and I’m also concerned about the impact on everybody else living in the block of the costs of the waking watch, which doesn’t come cheap.

“It’s a disruption and it can further upset the people who live in the building, which they don't deserve.

“I really feel for their for their situation.”

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt said that he is "deeply concerned" by the partial evacuation of Cardinal Lofts.

He added: "It’s an awful situation, and I’m currently working to get clarity for the affected residents.

“I’m aware that there is another assessment underway, which will confirm what further actions need to be taken.

“I know people are very anxious about the current uncertainty, and like them I’m working to press the relevant authorities to get a timeline and better understanding of the issues as soon as possible.”