Watford county councillor Asif Khan has asked fire chiefs for assurance that the Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service is responsive to the “plethora of very high rise buildings” built and planned for the town.
Cllr Khan raised the issue at a meeting of the public health and community safety cabinet panel on Tuesday (February 6), where councillors were considering the service’s Community Risk Management Plan (CRMP).
He stressed that some of these buildings in the town could be well in excess of 18-metres. And he said: “In Watford we have got a plethora of very high rise buildings that are coming through. And I just want to make sure that the fire service is responsive to that.”
In response, executive director of community protection Alex Woodman acknowledged that there had been a number of changes in the sector following the “tragic” Grenfell Tower fire and he said that procedures had been put in place.
“It’s important for me to say absolutely as a sector we have a commitment to our approach to high rise, because of the learnings that have gone across the sector,” he said.
“We will of course adopt all of those – and have done. And it is something that we are regularly inspected on, particularly through HMI and other areas.”
Councillors were told that the service’s fire protection team take the lead in terms of over-seeing the response to high rise buildings, although the government had now set up a buildings safety regulator.
They were told that the fire protection team currently undertake annual audits of the 100-plus high-rise buildings in the county. They heard that the team were involved in the planning stage of new developments – looking at planning applications for every proposed high rise building.
This, councillors were told, would include officers looking at aspects such as access for fire appliances and other fire safety arrangements.
Following the meeting, Cllr Khan said he had been prompted to ask the question because of the scale of change in Watford – where a significant number of high rise blocks up to 28-storeys have been built or are planned.
He said he wanted to know how the Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service would respond to this challenge. He said he was sure the service understood the challenge, but was keen for further operational detail to reassure him further.
Stressing that the service does a sterling job, he says he wants to ensure it has the required equipment – so that, if necessary, councillors can lobby government for anything that may be required.