Committee Meeting 28 June 2017 on Fire Safety

Here are the minutes of our meeting on 28th June 2017 on Fire Safety, including a Question and Answer list, as a downloadable document:

MINUTES for CTHG meeting on Fire Risk (28 June 2017) Version 5 (pdf)

Here are the same minutes as a web page:


MINUTES for additional Committee meeting 28 June 2017

19:00 in the Podium Room

This is an additional Committee meeting convened to follow on from our CTHG Committee Meeting the previous day, to focus specifically on Fire Safety issues in Cromwell Tower.

Committee Members:

John Tomlinson (Chairman)
Jane Northcote (Secretary)
Laurance Jones (Treasurer)
Lesley Bradshaw
Alan Budgen
Frances Calman (absent)
Christopher Gorman-Evans (absent)
Julian Hale (absent)

Barbican Estate Officers (BEO):
Luke Barton
Helen Davinson
  1. John Tomlinson summarized a communication from the City of London. 
  • The Department of Community and Children’s Services is taking the lead on the City of London’s actions to keep residents safe from fire.
  • Independent Fire Risk Assessments (FRA) have previously been done every three years. They will now be done annually. The last Independent FRA for Cromwell Tower was done in November 2016. Another Independent FRA will be completed by August 2017.
  • The policy for Barbican Towers continues to be to “stay put” unless the fire is within your property or you are affected by smoke.
  • If there is a need to evacuate, this decision will be taken by the Fire Brigade.
  • Exit routes must be kept clear. City of London officers will intensify efforts to inspect exit routes, remove items blocking fire exits and keep the lift lobbies and communal areas clear.
  • There will be a programme to replace all flat front doors across the Barbican Estate. The new front doors will be fire resistant for 60 minutes. There is currently no timescale for this programme. It is anticipated that this will be paid for by long leaseholders via the service charge.
  • There will be a programme of “Drop In” meetings organised by the Department of Community and Children’s Services to communicate with residents on fire safety issues and to answer questions, exchange ideas and understand concerns.
  • There is a “Firebox” held by the porters and used by the Fire Brigade. This contains the names and flat numbers of people who might need special help in the event of fire, for example due to hearing impairment, blindness, or disability.

2.  Helen Davinson and Luke Barton reported on a meeting in the Barbican Estate Office, adding to the above.

  • There will be further communications to all residents. Please give your email address to Luke Barton to receive news from the Estate Office by email.
  • Storage of items in the Mezzanine of Cromwell Tower is a fire risk. This usage will end. The BEO will take the following actions:
      • The Mezzanine will be cleared of all items
      • The lift settings will be changed so that it does not stop on the Mezzanine
      • The pamphlets distributed by the BEO will be updated to remove the Mezzanine as a location to place items for  larger/bulky items.
      • Residents will be informed about alternative places to put items for larger/bulky items, namely Beech St Garchey Bay or Breton bin store
      • The cleaner’s stores will be kept elsewhere. Residents will be able to obtain spare rubbish bags from the porters.

3. As a result of these communications, here is advice and instructions from the City for residents of Cromwell Tower:

  • Install fire alarms in your flat. The London Fire Brigade will do free home safety visits to advise you about fire safety and install free fire alarms. You can book these visits via their website  or phone 0800 028 44 28
  • Know the exit routes from your flat to the fire stairs. Go and try them out. Identify them. Make sure you can open the Fire Doors. If you are not sure, ask the House Officer, Luke Barton (email address above)
  • Make sure your exit routes are clear. If your exit route is blocked, contact Luke Barton to get it cleared.
  • When you put out rubbish for daily collection, put it inside your rubbish locker and close the door. This is because rubbish left in lift lobbies is a fire hazard. If your rubbish does not fit inside the rubbish locker, then take it down to the disposal area which is adjacent to Cromwell front door. Do not leave any rubbish in the lift lobby at any time. If you cannot open your rubbish locker contact Luke Barton.
  • Take larger/bulky items of rubbish and recycling to the Garchey Bay in the Beech Street tunnel, or call the City of London Collection Service for collection of bulky items. Do not leave anything in the Mezzanine or your lift lobby.
  • Inform the  London Fire Brigade and Luke Barton if you consider anyone in your flat to be disabled and in need of extra assistance in the event of fire.  In this case it is particularly important that you ask the London Fire Brigade to carry out a home visit.

4. Questions

Since there is no fire alarm, and no loudspeaker system, how will the Fire Brigade inform us that we should evacuate?

Answer(BEO): That’s a very good question that we will put to the Emergency Services. Using the Threat alarm is one possibility, but that requires changes to the current procedures. We are currently taking advice.

Are there identified Muster Points where people should assemble after evacuation?

Answer(BEO): If there is a need for evacuation, the Fire Service will direct people where to assemble. The current policy is one of “stay put”, so there is no need for muster points.

Will sprinklers be installed, at least in the common areas?

Answer(Court of Common Council)): A feasibility study is being undertaken.

Lift C: this is labelled “Fire Fighting Lift” for use by the Fire Brigade. However, at the moment the door sticks and it is making a strange creaking sound. It is surely essential to get it fixed?

Answer(BEO): Yes, we are on the case. We have instructed the lift contractor and asked for a clear plan of work to fix this lift.

Is there the possibility of being evacuated by helicopter from the roof?

Answer (BEO and John Tomlinson): No. The London Fire Brigade do not have any helicopters. They do not plan to rescue anyone from the roof. The evacuation plan is to go down not up.

When do I get my fire-proof front door? The locker door next to the front door is not fireproof either. Will that be fireproofed?

Answer(BEO): This is a huge programme of work to be initiated across the entire City Housing Stock. This programme will address the entire door area including the lockers. We do not yet have a timescale.

IMG_0409In order to test my exit routes I need to open my fire-door, the one with the semi-circular top, which leads out from my “dining” area. This has glass that I break in an emergency. It also has a keyhole. Where do I get the key?

Answer (BEO): We have had several keys cut which are currently at the Estate Office and will need to be signed out to use/try. If Residents are unable to open the door with the key then they need to contact the Property Services Team on 0207 029 3909 or and arrange for the lock/door to be repaired. If residents want a copy of the key to retain for themselves, then they get this in the normal way by arranging it via the Reception at the Estate office.

The Plumbers Duct Access (PDA) spaces connect one floor with another. These are the spaces behind the bathrooms, which contain, for example, hot water cylinders and toilet cisterns. Are they a potential fire risk? We’ve seen flat renovations where big holes have been made through the concrete and into the PDA ducts so that the bathrooms can be redesigned. So if there were a fire in that flat, fire would travel to other floors via the PDA duct.

Answer (BEO): 

  • In principle, the PDA spaces should not be a Fire hazard because they contain only metal and asbestos and are totally surrounded by concrete, with access only by concrete doors which are locked shut. In practice, however, they may contain wood or flammable rubbish, renovations of flats may leave holes from flats into the PDA, and the doors to the PDA are sometimes left open. Flat renovations have to be signed off and so in principle the integrity of the concrete shielding is maintained, but this needs to be checked again.
  • The BEO will contact Building Control to come and inspect the PDA spaces.

Is there any mechanism to remove smoke from the fire stairs?

Answer (BEO): In theory, there is nothing to burn on the fire stairs. The BEO will look to see if any specific mechanism has been installed elsewhere on the estate and seek further technical advice.

Will we receive training in how to use the Fire Extinguishers?

Answer (BEO): No. In fact, the Fire Risk Assessments, and advice we have received from the Fire Brigade, indicate that the fire extinguishers should be removed. This is to ensure they are not used by untrained individuals in a dangerous manner. The best thing to do in the event of fire in your flat is to get out of the area, close the doors, and call the Fire Brigade. 

CTHG Minutes 27th Sept 2016



Minutes for the Committee meeting 27th September 2016

19:00 in the Podium Room


Committee Members:

John Tomlinson (Chairman) (absent)

Jane Northcote (Secretary)

Laurance Jones (Treasurer)

Lesley Bradshaw

Alan Budgen

Frances Calman

Christopher Gorman-Evans (absent)

Julian Hale

Barbican Estate Office (BEO):

Luke Barton (House Officer)

1.    Welcome

Julian Hale opened the meeting and welcomed resident Tessa Harfield, who wished to make some specific contributions to this meeting.

All Committee Members listed above were present except Christopher Gorman-Evans and John Tomlinson. Alan Budgen arrived later.

2.    Apologies for absence

Our House Group Chairman John Tomlinson was absent due to illness, so Julian Hale kindly volunteered to chair this meeting.

Christopher Gorman-Evans was unable to be present and sent his apologies.

3.    Minutes of the last committee meeting

Minutes of the CTHG on 21st June 2016 were signed by Julian Hale, acting Chairman, as an accurate record.

Matters from previous meetingS

4.    Carpet renewal – lift lobbies

Two carpets will shortly be replaced. Two carpets will be replaced each year until further notice.

5.    Beech St./Silk St. junction.

We have requested that the vehicle entrance to Cromwell Place be reduced in width so as to discourage taxis and lorries making dangerous U turns. This work will be funded by the City of London.

Luke reported that bollards will be installed within two weeks from the date of this meeting. The bollards will discourage fast U-turns in Cromwell Place. Waste collection and other large vehicles will still be able to enter. Two of the bollards will be removable, to accommodate exceptionally large vehicles. The porters will have the keys to remove the bollards.

6.    Threat alarm and intercom

Our tower intercom, uniquely in the Barbican, has a “threat alarm” originally installed for alerting residents if a bomb alert was received. There are a number of difficulties with this combined threat alarm system and intercom. It is supplied and maintained by Antron, a private firm.

  • The Threat Alarm has been tested but John Tomlinson and Laurance Jones did not hear it.
  • There are intermittent problems with the intercom, which have caused considerable inconvenience to several residents. Antron have been called out a number of times, at a cost to leaseholders, last year, of some £6000 for the block.


This special Cromwell system could potentially be replaced by the simpler system used by the other Towers. This simpler system does not include the threat alarm. In this case the maintenance would be done by Resident Engineers which is cheaper and quicker than Antron.

However, replacement might be overtaken by an estate-wide project. There is a long-term plan to replace the current key-entry system. Keys have not been changed for over a decade. The RCC (Residents Consultative Committee) are investigating proposals.

Action: Luke to

  1. Investigate the long-term plan for security and visitor entry to the Towers.
  2. Discover the date for the next test of the Threat Alarm
  3. Investigate options for replacing the intercom, with or without the alarm.

7.    Does our block need a Fire Alarm?

This question arose at our previous meeting. There is no Fire Alarm in any of the Tower Blocks. The Estate Fire Officer, Terence Short, has told Luke that Fire Alarms are not needed. The flats are compliant with all regulations applying to fire risk in tower blocks, and there is a programme of inspection to check compliance. Lift lobbies on all floors must be clear to ensure compliance with Fire Regulations for everyone’s safety.

Luke reminded us that the advice to residents in the event of fire in the building is to remain in our flats and call the fire service.

Action: Luke

(a) to check with the Fire Officer about the fire resistance of the doors of the flats. How long are they resistant for?

(b) to check with the Fire Officer about the fire resistance of the rubbish lockers, both with the doors open and closed. Are they a means of transmission of the fire from floor to floor?

(c) to communicate more widely with residents about the instructions in the event of fire.

8.    Additional planters for Cromwell Place

There has been a long-standing request for additional planters following an incomplete replacement last year (2015). The plants in the containers just outside the doors are not in a good state, and the island in Cromwell Place needs attention.

Cromwell Tower residents Paula Tomlinson and Helen Hale were at a recent meeting with Helen Davinson, Resident Services Manager from the BEO, to discuss this. Helen Davinson told them that there is no funding for a major overhaul at this time. So no replanting will be done this year and there will be no new planters. She noted that any future works to waterproof the podium will include Cromwell Place as it is above a Car Park.

The House Group Committee confirmed to Luke that Tower residents do not intend to take over replanting or maintenance of the plants in Cromwell Place since this is the work of the Estate Office.

Actions: Luke will put in a strong case for plants and planters in Cromwell Place in the year 2017/8.

9.    Visitor parking.

Some bays in the 01 level Car Park have now become available for use by visitors. The porters will direct visitors to these locations.

The Committee asked that the BEO reserve at least four places in the 01 level for visitor parking and as a contingency for future disabled use.

New resident places will be allocated in the 02 and 03 car parks.

10.Parking on the North side of Chiswell Street

A better footway arrangement will be built on North side of Chiswell St outside Sundial Court to protect pedestrians as part of Islington’s “Quietways” programme. We hope that this improvement will be made in 2016.

Action: John to continue to pursue this matter with Islington Councillors.

11.Glue Lines on each side of Utility doors – issue closed

On some floors there are indelible glue lines, straight or wavy, each side of the utility doors in the lift lobbies. This damage was done by contractors who secured protective sheeting to the utility doors with glue.

Planning Approval letters now include an instruction not to deface the concrete. Luke showed us such a paragraph in a recent letter.

12. Rubbish bags left in Lift Lobbies

Residents have complained to Luke about rubbish bags left in the lobbies. Action: Luke to circulate an instruction to remind residents to use the rubbish lockers rather than leaving rubbish bags on the carpet, and also to tell porters to remind cleaners of this procedure when they hand over the keys.

13.Damage to public areas by contractors

Thomson Bros have repainted the ceiling of the B lift, which they damaged during a recent renovation.

Luke has photographed the public areas around the lifts and confirmed that contractors or residents who damage public areas will be asked to make good at their expense.


14. Bicycle Parking

Christopher noticed bicycles locked to the railings of Cromwell Place. He photographed a cycle on the railings next to the Music Shop, partially blocking the steps. This is unsightly, dangerous to pedestrians, and risks damage to the bike wheel. It happens because the cycle racks nearby are full.


Luke to discover the name of the person in the City Transport department responsible for cycle facilities.

Jane (cyclist) and Christopher (non-cyclist) to approach this officer and ask for more cycle parking or other solution to this problem.

15. Peter Finch’s collection and card

Many residents contributed to a collection for Peter Finch, our porter, who retired due to ill-health on 31st August 2016. Barry Ashton of the Barbican Estate Office gave the card and cheque to Peter.


1st December 19:00 AGM and Christmas Party

31st January 2017 19:00 Committee Meeting

20th April 2017 19:00 Committee Meeting

Luke is away during this period. He will extend the invitation to our April meeting to Helen Davinson or to the person covering for him in his absence.

27th June 2017 19:00 Committee Meeting

The Summer Party 2017 will be scheduled in the January meeting