More Than A Year After Grenfell: No New Fire Safety Laws Protect Citizens

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Tragically the BBC reported that seventy-two people died after a fire blazed out of control at Grenfell Tower in North Kensington, West London when “Just before 01:00 on 14 June, (2017) fire broke out in the kitchen of a fourth floor flat at the 23 storey tower block.” (1)

The whole country was shocked and saddened and Prime Minister Theresa May instructed a major investigation. “A public inquiry is under way…1,144 witnesses have given statements and 383 companies are part of the investigation.” (1)

Manufacturer Arconic removed the flammable panelling from the market after it became clear that the cladding on the high rise block caused the fire to spread rapidly. During an initial inquiry to report to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government Dame Judith Hackett said the (high rise fire regulations) system was not fit for purpose. (2)

Grenfell Tower was refurbished in 2016 and due to cost cutting measures cheaper but more flammable cladding was installed. This saved Kensington and Chelsea council “£293000 on a £9.2 million refurbishment.” (2)

The cladding system fitted to Grenfell Tower was never subjected to fire safety testing,

It was also found on 299 other blocks…the aluminium composite material Raynobond ACM was apparently not put through large scale laboratory examinations to test the combustibility before being fitted.” (2)

Following Grenfell private housing owners and local councils are under pressure to modernise and fix the problems fire safety experts have identified. Both private and public sector housing providers have have major funding issues as the financial costs involved in upgrading cladding and at the same time ensuring the correct fire prevention building elements are installed, are so great. At the New Capitol Quay estate in Greenwich costs involve a “£20-40 million pound bill to make it safe plus a £1.25 million bill for round the clock fire patrols residents are concerned are not the solution.” (3)

This month Theresa May’s government announced they have now found a budget to pay for the works required but this could take years to implement and in the meantime lives could be at risk. May states: “I can today confirm that the government will fully fund the removal and replacement of dangerous cladding by councils and housing associations, estimated at £400m, and the housing secretary will set out further details later this week.” (6)

It is estimated that “The country faces a £1bn bill for re-cladding at least 311 residential towers, including 159 social housing blocks, with combustible plastic-filled aluminium panels similar to those used on Grenfell.” (4)

The Hackitt enquiry has proposed a wholesale change of the building regulations. “..which prioritises safety, as in the aviation or nuclear industries, with heavy fines and jail for those in charge of buildings if they transgress.” (4) So far nothing has been passed through parliament.

New Capitol Quay in Greenwich, London is home to about 2000 people. This relatively new housing development of high rises opened in 2013. However “deficiency notices were issued on 25th Jan 2018 by London Fire & Emergency Planning authority (LFEPA) on 11 blocks.” The notices have highlighted serious fire safety failings. Residents fear their lives are at risk while the cladding remains. (3)

The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors guidance on existing high rise buildings fire advises that “RICS recommends a holistic approach to be taken to a whole building and not just cladding in isolation” when assessing a fire risk. The RICS also recommends building assessments “should include an assessment of fire spread” (5)

It has been identified during the initial enquiry that the classification of construction materials and the fire regulations are too unclear and allow for loopholes that can inadvertently lead to catastrophic consequences. Despite this “Currently there are no changes to the Building Regulations or the Regulatory Reform Fire Safety order 2005. (known as FSO)” (5)

Matt Wrack is general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union and writes of the bravery of the fire fighters who risked their lives despite running out of equipment. There is no doubt that everyone involved that night followed their training and did everything in their power to fight the fire and help the residents. However Wrack describes how “The fire lifts did not work. The fire doors were not of the correct standard. The smoke extraction did not work. The windows failed. The water supply was inadequate…the building was wrapped in flammable cladding.” (7)

Wrack calls for a complete and total ban of flammable cladding. “It is shocking that more than a year after the Grenfell fire, this cladding material is still in use. We want to see an end to the privatisation of the fire safety inspection regime that has driven down standards.” (7)

As with many major accidents the causes of the terrible loss of life at Grenfell are multiple and complex. In this case the design and construction of the post war high rise block, the materials and equipment, the fire response procedures and the fire safety assessments all contributed to a disaster that was waiting to happen.

Theresa May and her government need to review, update the regulatory system and change the law immediately to include a complete ban of all use of dangerous cladding. Many people are affected with hundreds of buildings throughout the country that require bringing up to a safe standard, such as offices and student accommodation and residents who live in flats with several storeys. Otherwise we cannot confidentially reassure any high rise building users that their homes and workplaces, that should be a place of safety in their lives, are not potentially life threatening danger areas.

(1) BBC News 18 June 2018 ‘Grenfell Tower: What happened’

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-40301289

(2) Pasha-Robinson L. ‘Cladding Fitted To Grenville Tower ‘was never fire safety tested.’ The Independent 8 February 2018

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/grenfell-tower-cladding-fire-safety-checked-acm-cladding-aluminium-composite-material-reynobond-a8200801.html

(3) Booth R and O’Carroll L. ‘Multiple fire safety risks found at flats with Grenfell-style cladding.’ The Guardian 15 February 2018

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/feb/15/further-defects-discovered-at-housing-with-grenfell-style-cladding

(4) Booth R and Bowcott O ‘Where do we stand a year after Grenfell fire?’ The Guardian 14 June 2018

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/jun/14/where-do-we-stand-a-year-after-the-grenfell-tower-fire

(5) Strong G. ‘RICS guidance on existing high-rise buildings fire safety’ Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors Organisation15 Mar 2018

http://www.rics.org/uk/news/news-insight/comment/rics-guidance-on-existing-high-rise-buildings-fire-safety/

(6) Barratt L. ‘Government to fully fund replacement of dangerous cladding’ Inside Housing 16 May 2018

https://www.insidehousing.co.uk/news/news/government-to-fully-fund-replacement-of-dangerous-cladding-56306

(7) Wrack M ‘The real Grenfell scandal: over a year on, nothing has changed’ The Guardian 18 July 2018

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jul/18/real-grenfell-scandal-72-people-died-cladding-privatisation

Upshoot Rolls Out In West Sussex

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A powerful new property website is now right up your street.

What’s Upshoot?

Upshoot is a new website for buying and selling property. Upshoot was launched in November 2017 and displays the details of thousands of properties currently on the market. After a successful launch in London, Kent and Surrey, Sussex is the latest on the list to be added to the online collection that will soon cover all the counties in the UK.

Following a users search request Upshoot analyses all the available accommodation for sale and displays the best matches whilst also presenting potential development opportunities. Customers can see what building work they could have done in order to develop their current property. Visitors to the site can then compare this with a possible new purchases and see details of what improvement works they could complete and even how much the likely cost of the work would be.

Head of Brand Joshua Findlater states how “Upshoot allows users to conduct intuitive, smart searches such as; ‘120 sq m 4 bed house in Tunbridge Wells with a 200 sq m south facing garden under £500k.” This saves people time and research looking for the perfect place to live or their next development project.

Who is Upshoot Aimed At?

The young, bright Upshoot team consists of architects, town planners and estate agents as well as sales and technical specialists. Upshoot head office is based in Tower Bridge in central London and is now becoming available online everywhere in England and then potentially everywhere. Owner Adam Tarr is an architect who has been developing the business for more than a decade.

Brad Keen, Trade Sales Manager for West Sussex is enthusiastic about rolling out the concept across the country and is focusing on finding the right builders and interior designers in each county to recommend via the website. This means individuals who have found properties they are interested in developing into their ideal homes will be able to view a portfolio of projects by professional trades people and companies and contact them to arrange an initial quote, all at a click of a button. Keen describes how “We would like to add to the specialists available with electricians and plasterers and so on, as we move forward.”

How Upshoot Is Set To Shake Up the Market

Many different people benefit from using the site with its sophisticated features.

Upshoot is perfect for private individuals, estate agents, developers, contractors and professional service providers such a conveyancers or architects. One of the key aspects of the sites success is “making the whole process from the initial search through to the purchase and development of a property a seamless experience.”

Upshoot currently deliver over 1,000 Feasibility reports a month to homebuyers showing them what is possible including rear extensions, loft conversion, outbuildings and garage conversions. Mr Tarr says the difference with Upshoot is “the site’s algorithms analyse the development potential of individual properties and illustrates to users what could be achieved with each building in terms of alteration and extension.”

The entrepreneurial architect continues to say how “Since its launch last November, the website has seen in excess of 30000 searches and 3000 development enquiries on specific properties. “

Properties which have the ability to add another bedroom and homes with good access to certain local amenities can be quickly identified. This has also proved hugely beneficial for sellers as they can now illustrate to potential buyers the hidden value of their property, as well as widening their audience to those willing to extend or develop a property to suit their requirements.

How Does Upshoot Compare To The Property Search Giants?

If a customer is looking for a specific type of home and is able to undertake work to achieve owning their dream place Upshoot leads the way in making the process a breeze.

Established industry leaders Rightmove enjoy a massive market share and do already provide comprehensive details on real estate for sale. Rightmove also cover land and commercial property and they have several articles on their website about the latest trends in the market.

Similarly Primelocation is another major player that excels at both quantity of properties listed and provides a good quality of presentation with a general search criteria. Advertising on the Primelocation might put off some visitors to the site but it does provide some advice for first time buyers and general market information and news.

New virtual reality technology is developing fast and Upshoot.com is perfectly positioned to be able to add new features and advancements as they become available.

Upshoot Is Set To Pop Up Nationwide

Upshoot’s business model is free to use for new customers and their sales revenue comes from partnering businesses presenting their services. In this way advertising companies will benefit from connecting with new customers interested in the potential development projects that arise through the recommended property reports generated.

Prices in the south of England are as high as ever and buyers are looking for more sophisticated ways of finding their perfect pad. Upshoot provides a innovative fresh option for customers who want a specific type of search. Upshoot also aims to appeal to those who are seeking to gain the most bang for their buck in the future, by adding value to a property.

Using technology to do the hard work comparing vital statistics and information on thousands of possible places it will be easier than ever to move up the ladder. With Upshoot shaking up the online property search game throughout the country this year, for reinventing the traditional high street estate agency, the sky is the limit.

Second ComiCon On The South Coast Is A Spectacular Success

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The south’s biggest free comic convention lives up to its aim as a “fun filled event for all the family” again this year. The entertainment started on Saturday 16th June 2018 from 11am and went on until 8pm or later for those who stayed to enjoy the evening by the water.

Comic and gaming enthusiasts dress up and celebrate their heros and enjoy a day escaping from reality down by the seaside. The atmosphere was exciting and friendly and set against the stunning backdrop of Portsmouth’s most exclusive and picturesque marina. Port Solent Marina is tucked away at the top of Portsmouth harbour in Hampshire in England and provides an excellent haven for yachts, sailors and superheroes.

There were queues of cars waiting to enter the car parks and playing fields that were assigned as an extra overspill car park for the day.

On stage were a variety of celebrity guest singers and characters such as Star Wars e woks and Harry Potter Goblins and other creatures that were definitely out of this world. Members of the public in fancy dress were invited onto the stage to present and talk about their favourite stars from books, magazines, film, TV and video and online games. Professional character costumers and cosplayers chatted and mingled in with the crowd including several Transformers, Captain Jax Parrow, Ghostbusters and many more.

Stall holders selling merchandise relating to every Comic, superhero and fictional film stars imaginable lined the promenade. Toys and collectables were on display for shoppers to browse through and take home their special mementoes. Many accessories were selected by fans to wear to the next Comicon. The galactic looking cake and sweet stands provided a multicoloured rainbow of power snacks for the strolling visitors.

Between the stage shows and before the Blue Brothers music continued the party into the night, many visitors took advantage of the children’s play area and the wonderful selection of restaurants and shops that the marina has to offer.

There were indoor games tournaments and even an underground zombie experience according to the brochure. As as the day was fine and dry everybody seemed to enjoy the scenery and the buzz of the mini outdoor festival. The combination of the bright theatre unfolding in the centre of The Boardwalk and the beautiful white boats coming and going through the water was an excellent scene enjoyed by the hundreds of people who attended.

Port Solent undoubtedly profited from the stalls pitched by the traders and GoGeek events were hired to help deliver this specialist event. Port Solent marina promotes the marina’s retail and leisure facilities, that include a multiplex cinema, by holding a calendar of events throughout the year. These include music concerts, vintage car rallies and craft markets to compliment the existing businesses. The activities and draw of the inviting marina environment help to attract new regular visitors.

The day was organised by Port Solent management in conjunction with GoGeek events. Many different ages of people got involved and dressed up. We especially enjoyed meeting Tango Mike’s pirate character in a trio of supernatural Cosplay vamps in home made outfits. Daryl Jones, a Hampshire based Transformer cosplayer dazzled onlookers along the decking in a striking silver and gold costume. We were impressed with a girl who introduced herself as superman’s enemy Gomorrah and her marvellous sidekick, both glowing in dramatic green and brown face and body paints.

We often hear that we will all become technology nerds locked up in our bedroom gaming. It was very refreshing to see local people getting creative and enjoying positive and fun times together and happily recreating a well loved Spiderman or a Lara Croft lookalike. We are looking forward to the third ComicCon at Port Solent next year and we think the future might be fantastic.

Should You Be Able To Opt Out Of Some Family Days?

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Many major corporations and institutions could be inadvertently alienating their clients through thoughtless advertising campaigns.

Most adults receive emails and promotional literature straight to their computer inbox or mobile phone from companies and organisations encouraging them to buy products and services to celebrate an ‘official’ day like Mothers or Fathers Day. Post sent out by businesses to peoples homes is also very common as retailers and leisure outlets all compete to maximise sales throughout the seasons.

Celebrating a family member on a particular day is a custom that has been borrowed from America where many special days are added to the calendar to enable sales events to take place especially for the card and gift market with a whole host of other suppliers now jumping on this profitable bandwagon.

According to Wikipedia Mother’s Day was first celebrated by peace activist Anna Jarvis in 1908 as a memorial to her mother. Father’s Day and many other significant days have followed over the last century. Usually held on a Sunday, these days are now celebrated much like Christmas with festivities in place several days before the actual date. The commercialisation of what was previously a simple private occasion is now criticised by many as excessive.

A legal ban on unsolicited emails and promotions sent to an individual that contain specific family member days and celebration events could be considered by policy makers. Potentially a next step to follow the recent GDPR regulations that were introduced last month, one idea could be to include an option to ‘opt out’ to some of the more personal red letter days that occur annually every year.

Big brands could be encouraged to include a specific check box style form. One method could be to introduce a section in customers preferences and account details of their website. A citizen could unsubscribe to popular promotional events that don’t apply to them to avoid any irritating and time wasting inappropriate content from being received.

An example of one email message sent out by an online retailer this week was entitled “Yes! Just In Time For Dad”. The article contained bright photos and prices of thirty gifts that could be bought and delivered by courier this weekend. Nobody in the marketing team would ever want to intentionally cause any upset to their valued clients. However this message is actually rather offensive if the recipient’s father passed away unexpectedly at a young age and their grandfather died earlier this month.

Google, Amazon, Facebook and other companies sophisticated algorithms are able to successfully target online advertising all over our screens every day. So why are we still receiving irrelevant correspondence, that we don’t actually want, from the hundreds of private and charitable companies that most of us are signed up to?

All adults in the UK and America are included in these holidays and many countries in Europe and around the world as well. The entire population is targeted with special offers unless unusually you do not live in a permanent home and you do not own a computer or a television or mobile phone.

Shops also have massive window displays and physical installations that highlight all the relevant products and services for buying for a particularly selected family member. It is probably possible to avoid shopping on the days leading up to an observed family or religious holiday that an individual may not want to observe or may actually want to avoid.

However what if you work for a company that requires you to set up promote the holiday that is not appropriate for you? It is hard to know how to help a work colleague who has lost her Mum to cancer and has to smile through a whole shift on Mother’s Day. Could companies be asking too much to make their employees celebrate something that can be a very personal and emotional subject or that simply doesn’t apply to them during a work day?

Many Mother’s, Father’s, Siblings, Teacher’s, Secretary’s Valentine’s and Grandparent’s days are celebrated around the world and bring joy to millions of people and their popularity means they are definitely here to stay. Using technology it should be possible to easily and politely ‘pass’ on this particular party date if it does not apply to you and avoid any unwanted holidays from distracting, upsetting or ruining your day.