Fines and prosecutions Fine issued for hazardous flat conversions

SOORIPPILLA BALASINGHAM and his wife, Bavany, were prosecuted after inspections discovered an office block they had converted into flats was ‘full’ of fire safety hazards. Evening Standard reported on

the prosecution of Mr and Mrs Balasingham over the conversion of Cambridge House, a former security firm office in Barking, London, into flats. The couple had been granted planning permission to convert the property into ten flats after they bought it for £1.21m in 2008, but they instead ‘did not carry out the permitted works’ and ‘cramm[ed]’ 14 flats into the building, situated near Barking and Dagenham Council’s planning offices.

An inspection visit in 2014

found multiple dwellings on the first two floors of the three storey property, with eight on the ground floor and six on the first, and all flats were found to have ‘exposed wiring, fire safety issues and other dangers’. As a consequence, the council issued an enforcement notice that ordered the building be converted back into offices


before July 2016, which the couple appealed against but saw dismissed. Between 2013 and 2016 the couple collected up to £100,000 per month in rent from ‘the dozens of people living in the makeshift homes’, and at Snaresbrook Crown Court they were found guilty of offences under the Town and Country Planning Act. They were ordered to each pay £72,447 as part of a confiscation order under the Proceeds of Crime Act, as well as £3,329 in costs each, and have until the end of

February 2019 to pay, after which they would face 15 months in jail. Margaret Mullane, cabinet

member for enforcement and community safety, stated: ‘It is unbelievable that they thought they would get away with ignoring planning processes and simply do what they want, when they want — particularly when the building is a stone’s throw away from our planning offices. Hopefully the Balasinghams have learned an expensive lesson that will teach them about putting profit ahead of people.’

Landlord receives fine for ignoring fire safety requests but throughout its investigation its requests made to him for information regarding the hotel’s fire safety provisions were ‘continually ignored’, so SWFRS ‘had no option but to pursue the matter through the courts’. He was summoned to Merthyr Tydfil Magistrates Court in November, but failed to attend. In his absence, he was found

LANDLORD OF the Boars Head Hotel in Tonyrefail, Matthew Farr, was fined after ‘failing to respond’ to information requests from South Wales Fire and Rescue Service (SWFRS). The service stated that in

February 2018, its business fire safety officers inspected the hotel and identified ‘inadequate fire safety provisions’, resulting in a prohibition notice being issued under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 [FSO]. This prevented the hotel from being used ‘as a place of public assembly’, while an enforcement notice was also served that detailed the ‘necessary remedial work required’ to make it safe.

SWFRS’ compliance team

investigated ownership of the hotel, identifying Mr Farr as the licensee,

guilty of three offences under article 27 of the FSO, and was fined £750 for each offence for a total of £5,426, including paying full costs to SWFRS of £3,176. SWFRS noted that this fine ‘could have been avoided’ if Mr Farr had ‘simply responded with the required information’, while the investigation into the fire safety contraventions ‘is still ongoing’. Owen Jayne, group manager and head of business fire safety at South Wales Fire and Rescue

Service, said: ‘Our role is to enforce fire safety legislation in premises that fall within the scope of the [FSO] and ensure that these premises are safe. We do this by working with businesses and landlords across South Wales to support them to protect their business from risk. In this instance, SWFRS made every effort to attain basic information from the responsible person to enable us to follow legal protocols to no avail. ‘The court viewed this matter to be so serious that they found the defendant guilty and imposed the fine. As you can see in this case, the fines and costs received are solely attributed to the failure to provide information. This is a clear message to landlords and members of the business community that they need to respond to formal requests made by the fire and rescue service.’ FEBRUARY 2019 15

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