We are sorry for the continued disruption residents at Thompson House are experiencing following the fire in one flat. We have contacted residents to explain the latest situation and we will work to improve our communication going forward.
Following the fire, we worked to get residents back to their homes as quickly as possible whilst ensuring that the building was safe. In our efforts to communicate during an evolving situation we appreciate that on occasion we set expectations that we later found could not be met.
The fire on 28th March at Thompson House has caused significant damage to the building and resulted in considerable disruption to residents.
Our priority has always been the safety of residents and, initially, the fire services responded and the building was safely evacuated.
Like the vast majority of general needs purpose-built blocks of flats in the country, Thompson House does not have fire alarms in communal areas but does have smoke alarms in each flat. The latest guidance on this states that it is undesirable and unnecessary to provide communal fire alarms in blocks like this because they can make the situation worse. There is full information here from page 28 onwards.
In the immediate aftermath of the fire, Hightown arranged temporary accommodation until residents were able to return to their homes.
The fire service allowed residents a short window of time to return to their homes to collect any essential belongings. This was a limited and supervised period dictated by the strict procedures of the fire service. It was necessary for the fire service to then take control of the building and restrict access in order to ensure it was safe.
Once it was safe to access the building, Hightown supported residents to retrieve their belongings at times convenient to them.
Initially, it was thought that those unaffected by water or fire damage would be able to return to their homes within days. However, it was found that this could not happen until a temporary roof was put on the block so that the electricity could be safely restored.
We relied on information provided to us to inform residents that the scaffolding should be erected within days, but due to a number of factors including the high winds and wet weather at the time, this was significantly delayed. This delay was understandably frustrating for residents who were keen to return to their homes as quickly as possible. As soon as we received updated information from the contractor this was passed onto the residents.
Where we were informed that residents would need to stay in temporary accommodation for longer, we made it our priority to ensure hotel bookings were secured. When the bookings were made a notification was automatically generated and an explanatory letter from Hightown typically followed later.
Hightown originally intended for the flats to be cleaned before residents returned. However, knowing that residents wanted to return home as soon as possible and appreciating the delays, we arranged for the cleaning to take place after they had moved back into their homes. The cleaning took time and we apologise for that. Some residents decided to arrange their own cleaning and Hightown covered the costs associated with this.
Hightown supported residents with moving damaged belongings, with Hightown caretakers to help carry and dispose of items. We were not aware that a resident had decided to hire a skip to dispose of damaged belongings but if they contact us, we will be happy to discuss this.
The tender for the work to repair the top floor flat is due at the end of the month. We then expect the winning contractor to give us a programme of works that we will in turn share with residents. Until we receive this, we cannot give a definitive timescale but we do expect that repairs will take some months to complete due to the extent of the damage.
In regards to rent, insurance will only cover either the rent or the cost of the temporary accommodation and expenses. The cost of temporary accommodation is generally much higher than residents would be paying in rent. Hightown did attempt to contact all residents by phone to explain this situation to them.
Hightown has written letters, emails and set up a dedicated webpage to try to keep residents updated and to reassure them that we are doing everything we can. We apologise that at times there have been shortcomings. We are sorry that residents’ lives continue to be disrupted and will work to improve our future communication.