Council Response to Renuka’s Comment on “Fire Safety in Southwark Blocks”


From: FireSafetyConcerns []
Sent: 31 August 2017 09:12
Cc: ‘’ <>
Subject: RE: [Tabard Gardens North T&RA] Please moderate: “Fire Safety in Southwark Blocks”

Dear Renuka

Thank you for your enquiry.

We are making excellent progress with the removal of all items from the communal areas.  Housing Officers are working tirelessly to ensure that these areas become sterile and that they will remain that way.  If you feel that this has not happened quickly enough in your block then please inform the Fire Safety Team at and they will respond accordingly.

Southwark does not have any communal smoke alarm systems installed in the common areas of our blocks for the reasons given below;

In ‘general needs’ blocks designed to support a ‘stay put’ strategy, it is unnecessary and undesirable for a fire alarm system to be provided. A communal fire detection and alarm system will inevitably lead to a proliferation of false alarms. This will impose a burden on fire and rescue services and lead to residents ignoring warnings of genuine fires.  There is a concern that where communal alarms systems are installed and in the event that they were activated, this would be an indicator of fire or smoke in the escape route and residents evacuating their properties could potentially be entering an unsafe escape route and impede the emergency services.   We would not usually fit communal smoke detection in a purpose built block of flats unless it was there to operate Automatic Smoke Control (AOV) but these smoke heads would not have sounders to warn anyone. Normally these would be activated on the arrival of the emergency services when they have to knock down a door or at the least open it to address the fire, hence allowing smoke to enter an escape route the AOV would then activate to remove any such smoke.

As part of our fire safety programme and in response to the coroner’s recommendations following the Lakanal fire, LD2 smoke detection has been installed in the dwellings of all our tower blocks and was also offered free of charge to leaseholders. The alarms are interlinked and consist of smoke detectors in all rooms and a heat detector in the kitchen.  When one sounds they all sound in the dwelling, thus giving the resident the earliest possible warning of a problem. The same systems are being rolled out to all other dwellings as part of the ongoing major works programme.

All blocks of flats are built with a high level of fire separation also known as compartmentation.  This allows for the ‘stay put policy’, which you may have heard of.

A ‘stay put’ policy involves the following approach:

  • When a fire occurs in a flat, the occupants alert others in the flat, they all make their way out of the building and call the fire service.
  • If a fire starts in the common parts of block, those in those areas must make their way out of the building and summon the fire and rescue service.
  • All those not directly affected by the fire would be expected to ‘stay put’ and remain in their flat unless directed to leave by the fire and rescue service.

It is not implied that those not directly affected who wish to leave the building should be prevented from doing so.  Nor does this preclude those evacuating a flat that is on fire from alerting their neighbours so that they can also escape if they feel threatened.  This policy has been used by all housing providers since the 1960s, it supports current and previous building regulations which require these blocks to have high levels of vertical and horizontal compartmentation.  It is the recommended method for residential buildings as defined in the guidance ‘Fire Safety in Purpose Built Blocks of Flats’ and by the fire service.

For more information about this guidance and other fire safety advice go to

It is for this reason that many buildings only have a single stair.  We do not envisage the council supplying rope ladders as they may lead to unprecedented numbers of deaths and injuries as a result of their use.  There also may be a case from those residents who have concerns about individuals using such apparatus for purposes other than they were designed for.

The terrible fire at Grenfell Tower means that we need to take stock and review our current fire safety strategy and this is something which we have already started to do.

Yours sincerely,

Fire Safety Concerns Team.

Team London Bridge: Job opportunity for residents

We’ve just opened an event/community space at our office and there’s an ad hoc job opportunity available that some of your residents might be interested in – details below.

Team London Bridge are looking for candidates who live max 15 minutes away from our office (1 Melior Place, SE1 3SZ) and are interested to work on an ad-hoc basis. The work predominantly involves opening up or locking our community space for when we have bookings that are taking place outside of regular office hours. 

This is suitable for individuals that are looking for an extra income around their existing jobs, studying or if retired – the hours involved would be early in the morning or late in the evening, especially on weekends and occasionally during week days too. We cannot guarantee a minimum of work hours per month, as it all depends on whether there are bookings for the space.

More details about the role here, and if interested, please liaise with our colleagues Sam and Sonia at EmploySE1. Deadline 5th September 2017.

Kind regards

Henry Johnstone

Business & Operations Manager

Team London Bridge

A message from Gerri Scott

Dear TRA Chair

I wanted to let you know that after 7 years of leading the Housing department and the modernisation agenda for Southwark Council, I have decided to completely change my career path and have announced that I will be leaving the council at the end of the year.  I am incredibly proud of the progress we have made in Southwark, improving the quality of our council homes by making them warm, safe and dry, installing new kitchens and bathrooms, and bringing our contact centre back in-house. We have also vastly improved the housing management service, so we are more responsive to our residents.

I am pleased that I will be here to get a long-term plan in place for the residents of the Ledbury estate before I leave and to carry on leading the department whilst arrangements are made for my replacement.

My decision to leave was not an easy one, as I have thoroughly enjoyed working for what I believe is the very best council in London, with fantastic residents, colleagues, councillors,  and partners but I have ambitions beyond local government that I would like to fulfil, including a long held dream of setting up my own creative business.   After nearly 30 years in public service, it’s time to get back to my creative roots.  However, I will always have a passion for what we do and hope to use my skills and experience in other ways.

This has been the most challenging job in my career but also the most satisfying, not least because of the amazing people I have had the pleasure to work with.

With very best wishes

Gerri Scott

Strategic Director Housing & Modernisation

160 Tooley Street

London SE1 2TZ

BSAP: Tell us what you like best about our area


It’s Clare from the Bermondsey Street Area Partnership, here again. I was last in touch a few months ago about our Then and Now Photo Competition leading to an exhibition in Bermondsey Village Hall in June. It was a happy event, with some very happy winners and helped remind us about the strengths of community after the terrible events at London Bridge and Borough Market. Many thanks for your help in making people aware of the competition.

We’re still on the same track, wanting to find out what people feel contributes to the character of our area so that we can protect those things in the Neighbourhood Plan and celebrate them. The things people like most could be street furniture or trees, open spaces or views, public art or buildings, anything. With some Community Council funding and working with Team London Bridge and STAMP (Shad Thames), we’ve set up a website with a map of our area where anyone can click on the map and leave a comment, the more comments the better.

If it’s possible for you to publicise this in your area, that would be amazing, thank you. There is a jpeg of the leaflet below and I’ve left a stack of paper copies at the JMB offices. If you would like some leaflets I can deliver them to you this weekend. If you’d like me to come and talk at a meeting in September, I’ll happily do that, just let me know.

Look forward to hearing from you

All best


Clare Birks

Chair, Bermondsey Street Area Partnershipbsapunnamed