Concerns over safety of historic building

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A CRUMBLING historic building in Belper could present a fire risk to neighbouring homes, according to a Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service officer.

The town’s former grammar school, on Chapel Street, is in a bad state of disrepair and, in August, was labelled a “horror story” by worried neighbour Tony Howard-Jones.

He claimed it was not structurally safe and presented a fire risk, particularly because of a large, and sometimes loose, piece of tarpaulin covering one side of the roof.

After Mr Howard-Jones raised his concerns, fire service enforcement officer Keith Stevenson visited the building to assess its safety should a blaze occur and wrote to Amber Valley Borough Council with his findings.

Mr Stevenson wrote: “I do have concerns over the integrity of the structure, in particular the first floor, part of which can be seen as unstable from outside.

“I have to suspect that there may well be rapid collapse of the floor in a fire situation and that extreme care would need to be exercised by firefighters.”

Due to his safety concerns, Mr Stevenson added that if a fire was to take hold at the building firefighters would only be allowed to fight it from outside.

He added: “With regard to the large tarpaulin in place as weatherproofing, I suspect that this would quickly fail in a fire and either melt into the building or, depending on wind direction, be blown into the neighbouring vicinity, with a further risk of fire spread.”

Mr Howard-Jones, who lives off Chapel Street, rang 999 on September 12 because the tarpaulin was blowing dangerously in strong winds.

He claimed: “Everything about this building is dangerous. The whole thing looks so appalling. The tarpaulin actually blew over the top. It had been blowing around for quite a few hours.

“The fire service came out and pinned it down, but they said it was only a temporary measure.”

The borough council’s building control manager Dave Chard has written to Mr Howard-Jones, detailing a programme of works he would agree with the building owner Chevin Property.

This included work to secure the part of the building where it has collapsed, securing the tarpaulin, improving roof drainage, and monitoring the building’s condition.

Mr Chard said: “We will send someone to see if the work has been done.”

He added that the site has planning permission for development, but that includes the original part of the building being retained.