Fire fears lead to dozens evacuated

SERIOUS safety fears led to dozens of migrant workers being evacuated after firefighters deemed a derelict Bramford building too dangerous for them to live in.>

SERIOUS safety fears led to dozens of migrant workers being evacuated after firefighters deemed a derelict Bramford building too dangerous for them to live in.

In what owners of the former Fison's site in Paper Mill Lane today described as a temporary blip, the Polish builders were ordered to leave a disused office block they were using for lodgings.

The move came after environmental health and fire service officers carried out two inspections at the premises this week.

The building was being used as sleeping quarters for builders believed to be working on flats at Ipswich waterfront. However the office block lacked enough fire exits to make it safe for the workers, who increased the danger by using naked flames for heating and cooking.

Firefighters and Mid Suffolk District Council environmental health officers visited the building to find mattresses on the floor. The conditions, although not squalid, were said to have been poor, but reasonably clean. Sally Easton, spokeswoman for the council, said there were two to three beds to a room and there were kitchen areas. However, she added the building did not have the necessary sanitary facilities to cope with the number of people living there.

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Suffolk's assistant chief fire officer Mark Sanderson said: “We did a joint inspection on Tuesday and there were naked flames being used to heat the building. The fire safety officer decided because of social issues that he would permit the use of the building overnight providing the owner provided additional safety features such as fire wardens, ensuring fire exits were available and careful use of heating devices.

“The owner agreed to do that and we agreed to return on Wednesday. We took another look on Wednesday and we clearly had the same issues. We decided the issues were so serious we had to issue a Section 10 notice to prohibit the use of the building. We may have had between 50 to 70 Polish building workers who couldn't sleep in the accommodation.

“Mid Suffolk provided advice to a representative of the owner on alternative accommodation. What we try to do is work in partnership to serve the notice and deal with the consequences. We have been working with Mid Suffolk housing department and Suffolk County Council's social inclusion unit to do so.”

However Nick Gowrley, portfolio director of Mid Suffolk District Council, today said officers had spoken to the building's owner and were informed it had been able to find alternative accommodation for the workers.

The intervention of the fire service came after police were called to the premises after an alleged assault on Saturday night.

Mike Nunn, a spokesman for Suffolk police, said four men, aged 35, 30, 24, and 20, were arrested and taken to Stowmarket police station. They were bailed pending further inquiries until February 10.

The alleged victim, a 26-year-old man, was taken to Ipswich Hospital by ambulance to be treated for what were said to be slight injuries.

N If you are concerned about fire safety issues telephone Suffolk Fire Service on 01473 588888.

n. Were you surprised to read that immigrants are being housed in former factories? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or email

MARK Filipek, a spokesman for Paper Mill Properties, which looks after the site for developers Braceforce, in Gt Blakenham, claimed only about 40 men were living at the former Fison's factory at the time.

He said: “We take the welfare of all the men very seriously and there was an issue about the fire alarm system which was tested by the manufacturer and we spent thousands of pounds on it.

“Paper Mill Properties run around 15 properties with no problems or complaints and we take the welfare of all the workers very seriously, who to our knowledge, are satisfied and pleased with their accommodation. We arrange for their medical needs, their transportation and any leisure facilities. The situation at the site at Paper Mill Lane was a temporary blip as workers were returning back after the Christmas and New Year break.

“This is not an example of the level of attention to detail and standard that is offered to the men.”

Mr Filipek also stressed the Paper Mill Lane premises has 24-hour-a-day security cover throughout the whole year.