BBC Watchdog: BRRA contacts Bellway

On the 3rd May 2019,  one month before the fire, on the urging of residents of Samuel  Garside house,  the residents association wrote to Matt Carpen, director of Barking Riverside Limited (BRL).

“Dear Matt,

“Following the BBC Watchdog programme shown at 8pm on Wednesday 1st May, which exposed Bellway for poorly fitted fire barriers (in wall cavities) which will not prevent fires spreading, residents have asked that the houses and flats built by Bellway on the Barking Riverside estate be investigated to see if there are gaps in the fire barriers here also.

“Experts expressed no surprise at the revelation and told the BBC that the Bellway-built properties that they examined were ‘just the tip of the iceberg’ implying that there was a good chance that our properties suffer the same issues.

“Given the essential fire safety works that RMG, Pinnacle and L&Q have carried out on the flats recently, we would be greatly assured if inspections could be arranged for a selection of houses on the estate, and to know if the flats were inspected for this specific issue, and if not, that this will be done.”

BBC report on the watchdog findings at https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-48113301

Matt Carpen replied the same day:

“Dear Pete,

“Thanks for your email.  I have passed this on to Bellway directly.  They advised as follows:

“All enquires should be directed to John Enright, Head of Customer Care tel. 0191 2170717 or email firesafetyhelpline@bellway.co.uk

“If you need further assistance in making contact then please let me know.”

Clearly,  it would have been better if Bellway had replied to my query instead of requiring that I contact them direct. However I did so, left a message,  and the following day John Enright rang me back. He assured me that since fire resistant materials take half an hour to set on fire, under test conditions, the fire brigade would by then have responded to any fire and brought it under control.

I suggested to him that the Barking Riverside estate is built on a flood plain just beyond the Thames Flood Barrier. Should the area flood during a storm,  and power lines or flooding cause a fire,  which is not uncommon, the fire brigade might not be able to reach the area,  and “the whole estate could burn down”. My recollection of this conversation, as set down subsequently in WhatsApp posts to committee members, was that this considerably unsettled Mr. Enright, and he had no answer to this proposition.