Concern grows over safety and conditions at new flats
CONCERNS have been raised over safety and conditions at the new £2.9m Tweeddale flats development on Fort William High Street.
Problems were highlighted to the Lochaber Times following a fire at a block of the flats last Thursday.
At 5.15am on Thursday June 22, a fire broke out in the block of flats numbers one to 10.
Resident Jacquelynn Duncanson told the Lochaber Times: ‘It’s summer and when you wake up you don’t really know what time it is, so I thought it was the postman. But it was a neighbour knocking at the door shouting for everyone to get out because there was a fire.
‘The hall was filled with smoke and it smelt toxic, like burning plastic. We all went out onto the Parade. The police came very quickly and evacuated everyone.’
A spokesman for Scottish Fire and Rescue said two appliances were sent to the scene.
‘Crews wearing protective breathing apparatus entered the premises and used a high-powered hose to extinguish the flames. There were no casualties and firefighters left after ensuring the area was safe.’
An electrical fault with a kitchen appliance, believed to be a fridge, in one of the flats caused the fire.
‘We got back in about 7.30am, but the fire alarm was still going off. The police called the council around 6.15am to ask if someone could come and switch it off, but it was still going at 8.30am,’ continued Jacquelynn.
‘I called the council and told them but they said they wouldn’t be able to turn it off before 9am because that’s when everyone started work. It was terrible.’
The Highland Council has said no damage was caused to any of the flats. Speaking to the Lochaber
Times, Jacquelynn raised other problems with the flats.
The 62-year- old, who has arthritis in her spine, said the secure entrance to the building does not close properly, meaning she has had to chase people loitering in the hallway.
She said: ‘It’s supposed to be a secure entrance, but since we have moved in the door will not shut behind people. You have to pull it closed and a lot of people don’t because they forget.
‘So now we have people loitering in the halls, drinking, smoking and shouting. The carpet is covered in cigarette butts and empty cans.
‘I keep asking the youngsters to get out because they are going in and playing on the lift. I had to chase one man out of the hall who had a sleeping bag and a ruck sack.’
Jacquelynn said she has reported the problem with the door to the council 20 times but ‘nothing is being done’.
She added: ‘We moved in on May 5. These are new flats and our homes. You don’t want to have to come home to that everyday. It’s disgraceful.
‘The doors to the other two blocks shut correctly. The council said it’s because the hydraulics on our door aren’t heavy enough, but it’s not acceptable. Why have we been given a substandard door?’
She also highlighted issues with the lift: ‘The council said the lift would be out of action for a week while BT fitted the fibre cables down the shaft. But it was off for four weeks. There are people living in the flats who rely on the lift because they are elderly or have health problems.
‘The council blatantly lied about how long the lift would be out of use.’
A Highland Council spokesperson said: ‘New door closers have been ordered and are expected to arrive and be fitted later this week. The lift is running and has been for the last week. The lift was not faulty, however, its use was not permitted until it could be commissioned by an independent third party.
‘It is Highland Council’s process to have lifts, once fitted by the contractor and checked by the council, examined by a third party as an additional safety measure.’
Jacquelynn Duncanson at the entrance to her block of flats.