April 26, 2022 4.30 pm

Fire safety fears as former Gainsborough newspaper offices converted to flats

Concerns have been raised about the narrow staircase, but WLDC says it’s safe

West Lindsey District Council has said its £530k project to turn the former Gainsborough Standard offices into flats is fire safe after concerns were raised.

The authority bought the building at 5-7 Market Place in 2016 and gained planning permission to turn it into three flats and a commercial premises with the aim to restore it and improve the area.

However, Liberal Democrat Ward Councillor Trevor Young has backed concerns from local resident Pete Morley who is concerned the building work that’s being undertaken does not consider fire safety due to the narrowness of the staircase being used to access the three flats.

Speaking to Local Democracy Reporters, Mr Morley said: “The flats located on first, second and third floor are only accessible via three flights of narrow winding staircase so any prospective occupant is expected to tote all his goods and chattels up all these stairs which do not conform to modern standards.

“I strongly believe that the stairs do not conform to current regs and any access /egress from the building in an emergency will be seriously hampered and the council would be held to account.”

Councillor Young said: “What Pete raises is really important in terms of value for money and in terms of investment being put into the property.

“It’s about 2ft wide, it’s one of the narrowest staircase you can think about going up.

“He’s quite right to point out or question whether its compliant with building regs.

“Quite rightly that building should comply with the building regs.”

Trevor said he is chasing up with building regulations but as of now remains unconvinced that future tenants will be safe.

Councillor Young also raised concerns that the investment in the building would result in a deficit for the council when each part was sold or rented out when compared to the purchase and investment costs of the building.

A spokesman for WLDC told reporters the appropriate consents were in place and upon completion the necessary building regulations approval would be achieved.

“What does eventually get approved and constructed will comply with the relevant requirements of the regulations with regard to access and safety,” they said.

It is hoped the work, which began in April, will be complete by November.

So far the council has spent £275,891 on the project, which is parter of a larger town wide regeneration programme.

The authority has a budget of around £538,500 to repair and convert the building.

The spokesman said the building was in a prominent location in the town, but said that despite being a key asset it was in a state of disrepair.

They added that it provided “an excellent opportunity for restoration, setting the standard for the Market Place and how West Lindsey District Council value the area.

“Leaving this building to fall into further decline is not an option due to the key links with other regeneration projects and specifically the National Lottery Heritage Funded Townscape Heritage Project.

“In additional this project clearly demonstrates the council’s commitment to heritage-led regeneration,” they said.