Ipswich company pleads guilty after post-Grenfell fire notice ignored

The Ipaxis development in Ipswich. Inset: Dave Collins, acting chief fire officer for Suffolk

The Ipaxis development in Ipswich. Inset: Dave Collins, acting chief fire officer for Suffolk - Credit: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL/ARCHANT

An Ipswich firm has admitted failing to comply with an enforcement notice imposed by Suffolk’s fire service on an apartment block where cladding failed safety tests post-Grenfell.

Ipaxis Management Company Ltd, based at Home From Home Property Management Limited in Ipswich’s Pownall Road, appeared before Suffolk Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday to plead guilty to the offence.

Bosses also admitted not carrying out a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment at the five-storey Ipaxis development in Wolsey Street, near Cineworld.

The Ipaxis building in Wolsey Street, Ipswich Picture: ARCHANT

The Ipaxis building in Wolsey Street, Ipswich Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: Archant

Sentencing has been deferred for six months to allow the firm to pay for fire safety improvements at the block, which in 2017 failed a test ordered after the Grenfell Tower disaster.

Dave Collins, acting deputy chief fire officer, said: “Our primary concern is for the safety of residents in Suffolk, which is why we brought this prosecution, and I’m pleased with the outcome. 

Dave Collins, SFRS area commander in charge of support services

Acting chief fire officer at Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service, Dave Collins - Credit: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL

“We will not tolerate companies who ignore our formal notices, which could ultimately put people, property and Suffolk’s firefighters at the risk of fire.”

In 2019, the building was audited and a ‘notification of deficiencies’ was issued by the fire service. 

This was not complied with and was escalated to an enforcement notice issued in February 2020, explaining that the property did not have a suitable or sufficient fire risk assessment.

Most Read

A court summons was issued after the second notice was not followed.

Fire chiefs said that, due to the seriousness of the offence, substantial fines could be imposed.

They added that it was unusual for the court to defer such a case, but residents’ safety was seen as a priority.

The management company has since appointed a fire risk assessor whose investigation mirrors recommendations made by the fire service in 2019. 

Grenfell-style cladding found on upper floors

Ipaxis is a five-floor residential building and is not nationally recognised as a high-rise.

It has aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding, which is similar to systems found on Grenfell, present on the top two floors.

An inspection was first carried out at the block on June 29, 2017, just weeks after the fire at the south London block claimed 72 lives.

Less than a month later, on July 17, 2017, a full audit was carried out.

The Ipaxis development in Ipswich. Picture: ARCHANT

A post-Grenfell safety test indicated deficiencies in the building's cladding system Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: Archant

Its result was a ‘notification of deficiencies’, which indicated some works were required to comply with regulations, pre-dating the second notice issued in 2019.

At the time, tenants renting flats in the block said they felt they were being “kept in the dark” about fire safety problems.

Darren Prentice and Peter Cassidy found out about the failed test via an article in this newspaper and claimed at the time that they were “in limbo” with a lack of updates and communication over whether their building was safe.

Bosses at Ipaxis Management Company Ltd say they are fully behind Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service in its drive to improve fire safety in buildings in Ipswich.

‘Ipaxis has appointed a highly regarded fire safety consultancy firm who have recently completed an enhanced fire risk assessment at the apartment building and a fire safety action plan has been drawn up.

"The plan has been shown to SFRS and is actively underway; a progress report is in the hands of SFRS."

Sentencing will take place at a date to be fixed.

Timeline

June 14, 2017 - Grenfell Tower fire claims 72 lives

June 29, 2017 - Ipaxis assessed as part of post-Grenfell checks

July 17, 2017 - Full fire safety audit carried out

September 2017 - Ipaxis’ cladding found to have deficiencies after BRE test

Late 2017 - First ‘notification of deficiencies’ issued and work carried out to comply

December 2018 - Fire risk assessment carried out and tenants unhappy with communication

Early 2019 - Second ‘notification of deficiencies’ issued 

February 2020 - Enforcement notice imposed

Mid 2020 - Court summons issued

September 2021 - Ipaxis Management Company Ltd pleads guilty

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter