Beechmere retirement village fire prosecutions

Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service is prosecuting six companies for failing to comply with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, following an investigation into a major fire at Beechmere retirement village in Crewe in August 2019. To keep residents, partners and the media informed about the progress of legal proceedings, the information below will be continually updated over the coming months.

Background

On 8 August 2019, the Beechmere retirement village on Rolls Avenue, Crewe, was destroyed by fire. More than 150 residents lost their homes and possessions and while none were injured, the impact on their lives has been significant.

The fire was one of the biggest ever attended by Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service with 70 firefighters deployed at its height to bring it under control.

Since 2019 the Service has worked tirelessly to investigate the cause of the fire and establish any potential breaches of fire safety legislation. This has been a long and complex process owing to the scale of the fire and the number of parties involved in designing, building, maintaining and managing the building.

As a result of the investigation, Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service is bringing charges against six companies for failing to comply with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 at Beechmere.

Charges

The companies Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service is prosecuting are listed below. Please click on the arrow for details of the charges against them.

Avantage (Cheshire) Ltd.

Contracted to procure the design, build and finance of Beechmere and operate the village. Avantage is a subsidiary of Your Housing Ltd. Avantage (Cheshire) Ltd. have pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Charge 1

Article 8(1)(b) Failure to take measures to prevent the spread of fire in the premises.

Charges 2, 3 and 4

Article 9(1) Failure to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to which relevant persons were exposed for the purpose of identifying general fire precautions necessary. This includes failure identify timber framed construction, and failure to assess atria, smoke control, evacuation procedures, and protection of escape routes.

Charge 5

Article 14(2)(b) Failure to ensure that in the event of danger, it is possible for persons to evacuate the premises as quickly and as safely as possible.

Charge 6

Article 15(1)(a) Failure to adopt adequate evacuation procedures.

Charge 7

Article 22(1)(a) Failure to co-operate and co-ordinate with other responsible persons, Your Housing Group Limited and/or Morgan Sindall Property Services Limited and/or Total Fire group limited, so far as was necessary to enable you make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to which relevant persons were exposed for the purpose of identifying general fire precautions necessary.

Charge 8

Article 38(1) Failure to maintain facilities for firefighters. Inadequate protection of dry riser shafts as indicated in firefighter statements and thermal image camera footage.

Charge 9

Article 8(1)(b) Failure to take measures to prevent the spread of fire in the premises.

The following charges relate to the company’s management of the Hazelmere retirement village:

Charges 10 and 11

Article 9(1) Failure to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to which relevant persons were exposed for the purpose of identifying general fire precautions necessary. This includes failure identify timber framed construction, and failure to assess atria, smoke control, evacuation procedures, protection of escape routes.

Charge 12

Article 14(2)(b) Failure to ensure that in the event of danger, it is possible for persons to evacuate the premises as quickly and as safely as possible. 

Charge 13

Article 15(1)(a) Failure to adopt adequate evacuation procedures.

Charge 14

Article 22(1)(a) Failure to co-operate and co-ordinate with other responsible persons to ensure that the requirements of the Order are complied with.

Your Housing Ltd.

Employed staff at Beechmere and as such was the ‘responsible person’ for fire safety measures as defined by Article 3(a) of the Fire Safety (Regulatory Reform) Order 2005. Your Housing Ltd. have pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Charge 1

Article 8(1)(b) Failure to take measures to prevent the spread of fire in the premises.

Charges 2, 3 and 4

Article 9(1) Failure to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to which relevant persons were exposed for the purpose of identifying general fire precautions necessary. This includes failure identify timber framed construction, and failure to assess atria, smoke control, evacuation procedures, protection of escape routes.

Charge 5

Article 14(2)(b) Failure to ensure that in the event of danger, it is possible for persons to evacuate the premises as quickly and as safely as possible.

Charge 6

Article 15(1)(a) Failure to adopt adequate evacuation procedures.

Charge 7

Article 20(1) Failure to provide relevant information to outside undertakings, including failure to inform roofing contractor of timber framed construction of premises.

Charge 8

Article 21(1) Failure to ensure that your employees were provided with adequate safety training.

Charge 9

Article 22(1)(a) Failure to co-operate and co-ordinate with another responsible person, Your Housing Group Limited and/or Morgan Sindall Property Services Limited and Total Fire Group Limited, so far as was necessary to enable you make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to which relevant persons were exposed for the purpose of identifying general fire precautions necessary.

Charge 10

Article 38(1) Failure to maintain facilities for firefighters. Inadequate protection of dry riser shafts as indicated in firefighter statements and thermal image camera footage.

The following charges relate to the company’s management of the Hazelmere retirement village:

Charge 11

Article 8(1)(b) Failure to take measures to prevent the spread of fire in the premises.

Charge 12

Article 9(1) Failure to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to which relevant persons were exposed for the purpose of identifying general fire precautions necessary. This includes a failure to identify timber framed construction, and failure to assess atria, smoke control, evacuation procedures, protection of escape routes.

Charge 13

Article 9(1) Failure to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to which relevant persons were exposed for the purpose of identifying general fire precautions necessary. This includes a failure to identify timber framed construction, and failure to assess atria, smoke control, evacuation procedures, protection of escape routes.

Charge 14

Article 14(2)(b) Failure to ensure that in the event of danger, it is possible for persons to evacuate the premises as quickly and as safely as possible.

Charge 15

Article 15(1)(a) Failure to adopt adequate evacuation procedures.

Charge 16

Article 22(1)(a) Failure to co-operate and co-ordinate with other responsible persons to ensure that the requirements of the Order are complied with.

Morgan Sindall Property Services Ltd.

The facilities management subcontractor to Avantage, with responsibility for responsive repairs and cyclical maintenance. Morgan Sindall Property Services Ltd. have pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Charge 1

Article 8(1)(b) Failure to take measures to prevent the spread of fire in the premises.

Charge 2

Article 9(1) Failure to undertake suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment including failure to assess the risk that of LPG torches posed to the timber frame.

Charge 3

Article 9(2) Failure to consider matters relating dangerous substances, such as liquid petroleum gas, in the fire risk assessment.

Charge 4

Article 9(3) Failure to review a fire risk assessment, including a failure to review the 2009 fire risk assessment which identified defective doors to the smoke shaft.

Charge 5

Article 11(1) Failure to give effect to such arrangements as were appropriate for the effective planning, organisation, control, monitoring and review of the preventive and protective measures.

Charge 6

Article 17(1) Failure to maintain a facilities, equipment and devices provided in respect of the premises were subject to a suitable system of maintenance and were maintained in an efficient state, in efficient working order and in good repair.

Charge 7

Article 20(1) Failure to provide relevant information to outside undertakings, including failure to inform roofing contractor of timber framed construction of premises.

Charge 8

Article 22(1)(a) Failure to co-operate and co-ordinate with other responsible persons to ensure that the requirements of the Order are complied with.

Charge 9

Article 38(1) Failure to maintain facilities for firefighters.

WSP UK Ltd.

Contracted to produce a detailed fire strategy in 2007 and in 2008 produce an operational fire safety manual and carry out a fire risk assessment of Beechmere. WSP UK Ltd. have not yet indicated a plea to the charges.

Charge 1

Article 9(1) Failure to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to which relevant persons were exposed for the purpose of identifying general fire precautions necessary.

Charge 2

Article 22(1)(a) Failed to co-operate and co-ordinate with another responsible person, Avantage (Cheshire) Limited, so far as was necessary to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to which relevant persons were exposed for the purpose of identifying general fire precautions necessary.

Total Fire Group Ltd.

Contracted to carry out fire risk assessments in August 2017 and August 2018 at both Beechmere and Hazelmere retirement villages. Total Fire Group Ltd. have not yet indicated a plea to the charges.

The following charges relate to Beechmere:

Charge 1

Article 9(1) Failure to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to which relevant persons were exposed for the purpose of identifying general fire precautions necessary. This includes failure identify timber framed construction, and failure to assess atria, smoke control, evacuation procedures, and protection of escape routes.

Charge 2

Article 9(1) Failure to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to which relevant persons were exposed for the purpose of identifying general fire precautions necessary. This includes failure identify timber framed construction, and failure to assess atria, smoke control, evacuation procedures, protection of escape routes.

Charge 3

Article 22(1)(a) Failure to co-operate and co-ordinate with another responsible person, Your Housing Group Limited and/or Morgan Sindall Property Services Limited, so far as was necessary to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to which relevant persons were exposed for the purpose of identifying general fire precautions necessary. 

Charge 4

Article 22(1)(a) Failure to co-operate and co-ordinate with another responsible person, Your Housing Group Limited and/or Morgan Sindall Property Services Limited, so far as was necessary to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to which relevant persons were exposed for the purpose of identifying general fire precautions necessary.

The following charges relate to Hazelmere:

Charge 5

Article 9(1) Failure to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to which relevant persons were exposed for the purpose of identifying general fire precautions necessary. This includes failure identify timber framed construction, and failure to assess atria, smoke control, evacuation procedures, protection of escape routes.

Charge 6

Article 9(1) Failure to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to which relevant persons were exposed for the purpose of identifying general fire precautions necessary. This includes failure identify timber framed construction, and failure to assess atria, smoke control, evacuation procedures, protection of escape routes.

Charge 7

Article 22(1)(a) Failure to co-operate and co-ordinate with another responsible person, Your Housing Group Limited and/or Morgan Sindall Property Services Limited, so far as was necessary to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to which relevant persons were exposed for the purpose of identifying general fire precautions necessary.

Charge 8

Article 22(1)(a) Failure to co-operate and co-ordinate with another responsible person, Your Housing Group Limited and/or Morgan Sindall Property Services Limited, so far as was necessary to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to which relevant persons were exposed for the purpose of identifying general fire precautions necessary.

MAC Roofing and Contractors Ltd.

Contracted by Morgan Sindall Property Services Ltd. to undertake roofing works at Beechmere between 6 and 8 August 2019. Mac Roofing and Contractors Ltd. have not yet indicated a plea to the charges.

Charge 1

Article 8(1)(b) Failure to take measures to reduce the risk of fire and the risk of fire spread on the premises.

Charge 2

Article 9(1) Failure to undertake a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment.

Charge 3

Article 9(2) Failure to consider matters relating to dangerous substances. 

Charge 4

Article 10 Failure to apply principles of prevention. 

Charge 5

Article 11(1) Failure to comply with the duty to give effect to arrangements for the effective planning, control monitoring and review of the preventive and protective measures. 

Charge 6

Article 13(1)(a) Failure to provide adequate means of warning of fire.

Charge 7

Article 15(1)(a) Failure to give effect to appropriate procedures to be followed in the event of serious and imminent danger to relevant persons.

Charge 8

Article 21(1) Failure to provide suitable and sufficient instruction and training on the appropriate precautions and actions to be taken by the employee in order to safeguard himself and other relevant persons on the premises.

Charge 9

Article 22(1)(a) Inadequate co-operation and co-ordination with other responsible persons, including failure to ask for details of construction of the premises.


Latest updates

14/11/23 – All six companies appeared at Chester Crown Court for a pre-trial preparation hearing. Applications are being submitted by all defendants for the charges to dismissed. These will be considered at Chester Crown Court over four days from 22 April 2024. A trial start date has been set for 6 May 2025. The trial is expected to last for 10 weeks.

Charges relating to Hazelmere retirement village

During the course of the investigation, alleged breaches of the Order were also discovered at another retirement village, Hazelmere on Hambleton Way, Winsford. A number of charges have been laid in respect of these failures, in addition to those at Beechmere.

Remedial work to rectify these issues has already been carried out at Hazelmere and the other ‘mere’ retirement complexes in the area that were built to the same design specification and managed by Your Housing. Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service is satisfied that fire risk in these properties is now appropriately managed.

Information for former residents

3/7/23 - CFRS update on Beechmere investigation

  • 6/5/25 – start date for 10-week trial

  • 22/4/24 – pre-trial hearing to consider defendants’ applications to dismiss charges

  • 14/11/23 – first pre-trial preparation hearing at Chester Crown Court

  • 17/10/23 – initial hearing at Warrington Magistrates’ Court, at which the companies were asked to enter pleas and the case was referred to Crown Court for trial

  • 8/8/23 – original date for all six companies to appear at Warrington Magistrates’ Court

  • 29/6/23 – summons served to all six companies

Media contact information

Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service regrets that it cannot enter into detailed discussion about its investigation or specific charges owing to legal proceedings being active.

However, for general enquiries about the fire or forthcoming hearings, please contact the Service’s Media Desk on 01606 868880 or email communications@cheshirefire.gov.uk

The Desk is staffed between 8:30 and 16:30, Monday to Friday.

Photographs of the incident may be used by media organisations when covering this case. To save them at high resolution, please right click on the image and save as a .jpg file. Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service should be credited in captions.