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Shock as Joseph Rank House residents told they must leave today following “significant fire safety concerns.” 

General / Fri 28th Jun 2024 at 09:21am

OVER a hundred residents of Joseph Rank House in Harlow have been told that they must move out today. Residents are being supported after Essex County Fire and Rescue Service took the “difficult decision” to serve a prohibition notice on Joseph Rank House in Harlow town centre following significant fire safety concerns.  

Joseph Rank House is on Kitson Way in the town centre.

The prohibition notice was served on Places for People, the owners of the building, last night (Thursday 27 June) and means that the residents living in the 44 occupied flats must move out from 9am today (Friday 28 June). The residents affected are being supported by Places for People, Harlow Council, and other agencies working in partnership including Essex County Council, Essex Police, and health partners.

Dan Partridge, Essex County Fire and Rescue Service’s Area Manager, Prevention and Protection said:  

“We have issued a prohibition notice against Joseph Rank House, Harlow. This means the owners for the building must ask residents to evacuate the building immediately as we believe there is a threat to life related to fire safety. 

“Essex County Fire and Rescue Service will only ever serve a prohibition notice when it is absolutely necessary. We never want people to lose their homes, but our responsibility is to keep people safe and protect them from the risk of fire. 

“In this instance we are clear that the property does not meet fire regulations. Specifically, we believe if there was a fire in the building there is potential for rapid smoke spread both internally and externally. This would mean residents would not be able to evacuate safely and this would put residents at a higher risk of serious injury or death.

“It would therefore have been highly irresponsible for our Service not to immediately prohibit the use of the building.”

Councillor Dan Swords, Leader of Harlow Council, said: “Harlow Council is working closely with the building owner Places for People and other partners to support all the affected residents. From the time we were advised of the formal decision by Essex Fire Rescue, our teams have been working around the clock to ensure we are ready to assist.”

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52 Comments for Shock as Joseph Rank House residents told they must leave today following “significant fire safety concerns.” :

Adam
2024-06-28 09:29:32

Another converted office blocks and now 44 people homeless through no fault of their own. I wonder how much help the council really is? Surely there must be something which can be done to keep them housed and safe - fire wardens etc while remedial work is going on.

Trace
2024-06-28 09:37:08

How long is it before we get to read stories where the council have not managed to find homes for these poor folk?

Brian Aston
2024-06-28 09:59:32

Maybe time to look closer to home and ask why the council of the time that Joseph Rank House was converted into flats approved the planning decision without proper safety assessments being made. I do believe the council back then was, Labour was it not?

James H
2024-06-28 10:05:36

I live here and it's a total shambles! Not getting the help we need. Being left in the dark. Not given any information. We're on our own!

Previous Tenant
2024-06-28 10:14:02

Absolute insanity - hopefully the owners will get payment for their properties!

AJ
2024-06-28 10:15:58

@Brian Aston, did this ever go near Harlow Council planning? Permitted Development rights may well have been at play here. Who introduced those?

Adam
2024-06-28 10:47:28

@James H sorry to hear that is there any indication when / if you will be allowed back.

Resident
2024-06-28 10:47:54

Why has this only just come to light now? Surely, a fire safety survey was done at the time. What are the implications for sites such as Terminus House? You can't expect people to move out in 24 hours

Brian Aston
2024-06-28 10:58:40

The fire safety issues were raised in February last year. But a building, built in the 60s, converted in the 2010s, never a good combination.

Dont blame asylum seekers for your shoddy council
2024-06-28 11:34:01

Jerry that building actually is home to many international nurses, doctors and other NHS Staff all work for PAH all don't earn enough to live in affordable housing in the town they work in. If only the council had access to a building they spent 30Million on prior to the local elections that could house these people. HaRlOw HoMeS fOr HaRlOw PeOpLe though... shambles the lot of it

View from Afar
2024-06-28 11:53:56

Can’t believe it’s come to this when problems were known a long while ago. If I remember correctly it was on here that the building was going to be knocked down and new flat’s built.

Owner
2024-06-28 13:18:36

Absolute lie that we are getting supported. Left completely in the dark. Told to pack a bag of essentials and that’s it

JR
2024-06-28 13:29:35

Harlow council, what can you say. They are given X amount of money to maintain these Harlow properties etc housing or otherwise to be kept up with maintenance on them. Bit by bit this maintenance is not kept up or cared about. I was absolutely shocked the other day when asking Harlow council/ HTS if they could come look at my kitchen sink as I'm hearing gurgling everytime water runs down the drain which to my knowledge indicates a blockage somewhere. Rather than this escalate after I did ALL I could to unblock I rang them. Much to my horror I was told that a ticket couldn't be raised unless I'm a vulnerable tenant. "REALLY" I was told that council tenants must now call in a plumber for themselves & also pay. Since when has this been YET another thing they don't attend to on their properties.HOW many council tenants are aware of this!!!?? Because I certainly wasn't. Even private tenants do not pay for a plumber. It seems they hold back on the funds or spend on RIDICULOUSLY other things. The safety & upkeep of council property is crucial & Harlow council just don't seem to care in the slightest for people's safety health. What the hell is happening in this town it's totally & utterly falling apart & so is the care for the people who try to make a life then get these knocks from Harlow Council. In this world right now with cost of living etc people are unable to meet what Harlow council chuck at them especially when they have been given the funds to cover most problems but instead hold onto them. The words of we do what's best for Harlow people is just another lie. Dam right UNBELIEVABLE!!

On looker
2024-06-28 13:35:45

Adam .Trace. perhaps you would both be happy to take some in.

Yasmin Gregory - MP Candidate fir the Green Party
2024-06-28 13:38:40

My concerns are threefold: 1. Harlow council have confirmed to me previously that they do not place people in need of temporary accommodation into converted office blocks in Harlow. 2. Many JRH residents are embedded in our community but may not satisfy the social/affordable housing criteria that came into force in April of this year so will be homeless 3. Will these residents be offered a tent (as has happened before) or moved to a converted office block outside the Harlow Council boundary. Children are in school, adults have employment which may have been within walking distance. We were told well over a year ago that there was a problem with JRH. Why has there been no communication with the remaining 44 families up until now?

Trace
2024-06-28 14:01:34

JR, my next door neighbour is a council tenant and she had HTS round a couple weeks ago for her bathroom sink. I think you've been spun a fib. Also, so have we all, as clearly Dan Swords statement that all repair backlog was cleared. On looker, Oh do shush now.

JR
2024-06-28 14:18:52

Trace thank you for that information. With that I'm going to go one step further now as it did set of alarm bells. I'm a pensioner with severe COPD I have home oxygen & small portable oxygen + I also have to have a ventilator to breath for me through the night. I was so shocked 😲 & I mean shocked when the receptionist Sarah said council tenants now have to call in a plumber of their own. It's getting to a point where HTS & Harlow council don't want to do anything if they can help it but if you attempt these things on your own, your in the wrong because it's their properties & you shouldn't be touching it. Anyway I will be getting back onto them as I'm not a person who lets HTS of Harlow council get the better of me if I'm in the right. I hope other tenants who see this comment also check this out as it's very worrying & stressful if anything should happen in their homes. It certainly has pushed my anxiety levels up. Think fire & water problems are horrific.

Adam
2024-06-28 14:19:25

Yasmine you are not serious about offering people a tent ?

Trace
2024-06-28 14:46:16

JR, am sorry all this went on. It seems odd the councils don't look after their properties, the money invested in them must be huge. Best of luck with it all.

Pete
2024-06-28 14:57:52

Why can't they all be moved into the new council flats by the town station. Easy fix

Guy Flegman
2024-06-28 15:26:43

Making people homeless at short notice for their own safety! Clearly no one has thought this through. It’s things like this that truly shames us all.

Tony
2024-06-28 15:36:52

The council now say they do not repair or replace garden fences any more. So me as a council tenant who pays rent and council tax I have to get someone in to replace the fences at my cost (£1000-£1400). Not happy with this

Trace
2024-06-28 16:08:02

To be fair Tony, council tax has nothing to do with it, we all pay that and not entitled to free fences because of it. Oh, if your fences are boundary (such as bottom of garden onto a path or road) then the council pay. Also had this conversation with next door as her fences blew down in the winter.

Terry Kirkby
2024-06-28 16:41:11

Great excuse to place them all in the empty new builds by the station!

Tony
2024-06-28 16:48:20

Trace So when I move out I can take the fence with me as I paid for it lol

Hugo
2024-06-28 16:50:06

Adam - Another converted office blocks and now 44 people homeless through no fault of their own. I wonder how much help the council really is? It's a private building, not owned by the council. What has the council got to do with it? Surely the Tory way is small state, so what has the council got to do with it? Brian Aston - Maybe time to look closer to home and ask why the council of the time that Joseph Rank House was converted into flats approved the planning decision without proper safety assessments being made. I do believe the council back then was, Labour was it not? Maybe the proper safety assessments were made as per the regulations at that time. JR - Harlow council, what can you say. They are given X amount of money to maintain these Harlow properties etc housing It's a private building, not owned by the council. What has the council got to do with it? Surely the Tory way is small state, so what has the council got to do with it? Adam - Yasmine you are not serious about offering people a tent ? Nowhere in the statement above does Yasmin Gregory - MP Candidate for the Green Party mentions a tent. Stop making things up. Pete - Why can't they all be moved into the new council flats by the town station. Easy fix Perhaps because they have just been built and do not have luxuries like electricity? Water? Flushing toilets? Working lifts etc. Maybe they have already been allocated to other homeless people? Not so easy fix. Tony - The council now say they do not repair or replace garden fences any more. I hope you get your garden fence fixed while there are people being made homeless. Yes, while there are people who are only being made homeless, you are the one who is really, really suffering with a broken garden fence. Perhaps you shouild contact Bob Geldof and get a charity concert going. Call it Fence Aid. This is and was a private building. It was converted under the regulations at the time. Not the regulations as they are now. It is the regulations now that are requiring many changes to various buildings, including this one. Yes, shock horror! I know that this Conservative government has been inept and corrupt to the extreme, but they did change the regulations because of a minor incident at Grenfell Tower. I think Harlow was under Labour at that time, so obviously Harlow Labour was responsible for the fire at Grenfell Tower. And the fall of the Roman Empire.

SJ
2024-06-28 16:56:21

Did anyone bother to read that the building is owned and run by Places for People the Housing Association NOT Harlow Council!!!! Stop blaming Harlow Council for this and start pointing the finger at the correct organisation!!

Ken
2024-06-28 17:16:21

This is a complete farce from start to finish I know a woman how is 30 weeks pregnant force to leave her home with 2 young children and was told cannot be put in a hotel until Monday so homeless hope the people that run this building have a horrible painful death

Seamus
2024-06-28 17:24:54

Is this the next building to be knocked down in the town but using the "At risk" excuse?

Resident
2024-06-28 17:27:52

The tories pushed these permitted developments and if I remember correctly, they don't need planning permission from local authorities ? How many more will be condemned as safety hazards at a later date

Fiona
2024-06-28 17:36:21

1. It’s now Harlow council property - owned by a company called placed for people therefore Harlow council has nothing to do with it or the maintenance 2. Brian aston. Permitted developments don’t need planning permission. The TORIES changed the law to allow them (are looking to change it again so even LESS control) however the tories will tell u that they are saving the day and blocking them ( only in certain areas of Harlow). It didn’t matter who was in control of the council at the time, the tories changed the law so they didn’t need planning permission. 3. Yasmin gregory (greens) was nearly pointing out that people had previously been given tents. This is NOT her suggestion, nearly raising how ridiculous it is.

Dan
2024-06-28 17:47:01

This needs to make it to the main TV news channels maybe some pressure on the landlord will help the residents

David
2024-06-28 18:15:38

The same Places for People who want to build 8,500 homes at Gilston?

Shirley Mcnally
2024-06-28 18:36:27

I worked in Joseph Rank house for 18 years never had problems then, is this because it was turned into flats that its now unsafe

S McNally
2024-06-28 18:37:40

I worked in Joseph Rank house for 18 years never had problems then, is this because it was turned into flats that its now unsafe

Resident
2024-06-28 20:07:27

Office work is very different to people cooking and sleeping in a building. Not to mention household appliances etc that can catch fire. It does seem convenient when they plan to redevelop this area though.

Frustrated
2024-06-28 21:45:09

People are being made homeless and some Muppet is banging on about his fence, seriously........

Guy Flegman
2024-06-28 22:16:43

I am ashamed of what we have become. We are all to blame! Even if you do not think so.

Jefferson
2024-06-29 04:51:45

Regardless of what council was in at the time or who allowed permitted development, there are still strict rules from building control who have to follow fire regulations. Which have become very strict since Grenfell . I don’t think who was in charge of what council really has anything to do with it.people’s lives could be in danger and a lot of you want to throw stones at each other. These people need help and Harlow council with the local MP should be knocking at number 10 for immediate assistance.

Eddie
2024-06-29 05:45:33

Pete. It's probably full of people from Sycamore Field flats.

Eddie
2024-06-29 05:55:06

Guy. Why am I to blame. I am just a normal working class person.

Pip
2024-06-29 08:25:24

@Adam 44 flats not 44 people. Many many more people than that.

Peter
2024-06-29 11:46:40

I understand safety is important. The block was built around 45 years ago I guess and is still around. So is there not an alternative to eviction like fire watch patrols (had them in the war I am told), perhaps using the residents under the "control" of the fire brigade. Is greater use of cctv a possibility in each home. Does each home have a mandatory fire/smoke detector. And why has this happened now, is it something that the fire brigade has reported on previously but been ignorred

voteforme
2024-06-29 11:51:09

Why have MP candidates stayed so quiet on this matter. Why has only Yasmin commented. Hannah Ellis, you are from Harlow for Harlow, here is an opportunity to show, publicly, how you might deliver this.

Know the building well
2024-06-29 13:58:55

Little bit of history for all. This building has had multiple improvements to improve the fire safety for all residents, heat alarms, additional smoke alarms and a sprinkler system in all flats and communal parts, sadly these do not give enough protection to residents in the case of fire, smoke would be distributed quickly throughout the building, which, I think, is why the Fire Service have issued the Prohibition Notice. At one point PFP did have 24 hour "fire marshals" checking the property to ensure the safety of all, (I saw that a previous comment mentioned this). As I understand it, out of the 132 flats in the building, 45 had families still in occupation. HC have assisted in providing alternative accommodation for many families, others have found a new home by themselves, either renting or in some cased buying a "forever" home. In my opinion, PFP could have done a lot more to assist the remaining residents in securing other homes, I am aware of one family who had not had one conversation with anyone from PFP (until yesterday) with regards to their onwards plans or any offer of assistance, probability is that if this is one family saying this, there are likely to be more. The big issue for these families now is where do they go? HC do not have an endless supply of available properties, having to rehouse their own residents from Sycamore Field will obviously not help these families. Talking of Sycamore Field, to give credit where it's due, as soon as HC had the directive from the Fire Service to empty the building, they took action immediately. PFP have know about the short comings at JRH for at least three years and done very little until recently to make any steps to have the building vacated. Their lack of urgency is now costing these families, stress and worry which could have been avoided. PFP will now have to cover the cost of emergency accommodation, hotel rooms, short term lets etc as well as travel costs for the those that need to get into Harlow for work and school, particularly if they don't drive, this cost will be huge. Shame on you PFP, you have failed your residents!

Emma
2024-06-29 16:47:39

Same for sycamore field it's horrible not knowing where u going and if there was a fire they leaving us in ?????

Donny B
2024-06-29 20:03:02

‘Know the building well’: Where would PfP have found homes to rehouse them in then? Do they grow on trees? They’ve been moving people out of the building for 18 months. It was never going to be an overnight thing. At least it wasn’t until Essex Fire Service changed their mind.

Donny B
2024-06-29 20:04:54

Tony: fix your own fence, like most people have to.

Know the building well
2024-06-29 23:33:40

Donny B. Astutely aware that providing new homes is a challenge at the best of times, however, PFP have not only failed in this but just as importantly have not been in any kind of communication with at least one, possibly more, of their residents. Communication is key particularly in circumstances as demanding as this. Wish you well .

David Forman
2024-07-01 07:52:11

For several commentators benefit, Harlow Council policy says in council houses "boundary fences" are the council's responsibility. See link https://www.harlow.gov.uk/housing-and-garages/repairs-and-maintenance/report-tenant-repair/council-responsibilities

Frank G
2024-07-02 11:42:54

Why would they help these 44 people. They won't come and change my rotting guttering I've been moaning at them about for the past 4 years! If they can't do guttering they won't re house people quick!! Idiots the lot of you

Anon
2024-07-04 10:30:08

I know people who have been affected by the situation in JRH and they have been failed massively, whilst I understand that Harlow Council do not own this building, many of these tenants bid for property and were given a place there from Harlow Councils waiting list, unaware that the council had housed them in a building that was unsafe, surely Harlow council had a responsibility to now help them? They have been shipped out to various hotels, but these rooms, whilst providing a roof over their heads, gives them no cooking facilities and in a lot of incidents no fridges. My friend is heavily pregnant with 2 other children and has one room and no fridge and no cooking facilities and was told she was unable to put a microwave or slow cooker in her room. She faces the prospect of bringing a newborn baby back there with no way to wash clothes or sterilise bottles and Harlow council will not even talk to them.

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