Brighton families raise funds for potential legal action after homes destroyed in fire
A group of families whose Brighton homes were destroyed by a fire are raising funds to take legal action against the owner of the building.
A total of 12 homes at 122-124 Pankhurst Avenue, Brighton, were left seriously damaged after a fire broke out in September 2019.
The fire took just 17 minutes to rip through the building after starting on a balcony.
The families say the building did not meet fire safety standards and are now investigating a potential claim against the Guinness Partnership, one of the UK’s Largest Housing Associations, and others, supported by social justice law firm, Hodge Jones and Allen.
The Guinness Partnership said the building ‘did not perform as it should have done in the event of a fire’ but said there was ‘no suggestion’ by the fire service of any negligence by the housing association.
All residents were evacuated following the fire, including residents from the neighbouring block and houses.
The fire service noted that the speed and extent of the fire would have represented ‘a significant risk to life’ had the residents not evacuated, according to law firm Hodge Jones & Allen.
Considerable damage was caused to the three-story building, including completely destroying the roof and the top floor which contained four flats.
The building was left unfit for habitation and had to be subsequently demolished.
The fire service’s investigation into the fire found that the fire stopping within the roof was inadequate, Hodge Jones & Allen said.
Neighbouring block and houses remained unoccupied until remedial safety works could be carried out.
Residents have recently discovered that it is the intention of Guinness to demolish all homes at Pankhurst Avenue.
While the cause of the fire was accidental, the families believe the extent of the fire could have been prevented had the building been ‘properly designed and/or constructed’, Hodge Jones & Allen said.
They also believe that, had Guinness undertaken investigations, any defects could have been identified earlier.
In the report following their investigation, East Sussex Fire and Rescue stated: “Fire Action notices were in the communal stairwells which advised occupants to stay in their flats...it appears occupants did not pay heed to this advice and evacuated immediately...the speed and extent of the fire development showed this to be a rather fortuitous move.”
The families said: “When our homes were destroyed in 2019, we never expected to still be continuing our fight for justice at the loss of our homes, treasured possessions, and the trauma of having to flee from a burning building in fear of our lives.”
Brenel Menezes, an Associate at Hodge Jones and Allen who is representing the families said: “For too long the former residents of Pankhurst Avenue have had their questions about what led to the destruction of their homes ignored.
“It is clear that this building did not meet fire safety standards – and we believe this is down to the negligence of The Guinness Partnership, and others.
“The time for waiting patiently for an explanation is over, the families deserve answers.”
A spokesman from The Guinness Partnership said: “We have been working with and supporting residents of Pankhurst Avenue, Brighton since the fire which destroyed the homes at 122-124 Pankhurst Avenue.
“The homes at Pankhurst Avenue were built in 2008.
“The building did not perform as it should have done in the event of a fire.
“Following their investigation, there has been no suggestion by East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service of negligence on the part of the Guinness Partnership.
“Residents rightly state that part of their campaign is about “showing landlords that they cannot get away with ignoring safety concerns”.
“At no point prior to the fire had residents raised fire safety concerns with us.
“We have shared with residents the fact that we are developing proposals to rebuild the estate.
“We believe this will enhance confidence in the safety of the homes.
“We cannot comment on any action being taken by ourselves or our insurers against third parties involved in the design or construction of, or building control approval for, the homes at Pankhurst Avenue.”