Speedwell tower block owner admits fire safety charges
THE owner of a Speedwell tower block which was the scene of a major blaze has admitted a series of fire safety charges.
Wayne Braund had bought the former Strachan and Henshaw building in Foundry Lane for £1 in 2018 with a view to redeveloping it.
On New Year's Eve of that year a fire broke out in the nine-storey office block on the site, which was being rented at the time by a music studio and a swingers' club, and also contained a number of residents and an illegal cannabis farm.
Avon Fire and Rescue Service brought charges against Braund, aged 52, of Fieldgrove in Bitton.
He initially denied all seven offences but, part of the way through a trial at Bristol Crown Court in May, changed his plea and admitted failing to:
*Ensure the fire alarm system was properly maintained.
*Ensure the fire alarms were in an adequate state of repair.
*Provide adequate firefighting equipment.
*Ensure escape routes and exits could be used as quickly and safely as possible.
*Ensure emergency lighting was in an adequate state of repair.
*Undertake a suitable fire risk assessment.
The seventh charge, of failing to ensure exits led to a place of safety, was left to lie on court files.
Braund, who was legally the "responsible person" for safety at the building, is due to be sentenced at Bristol Crown Court on July 8.
Afterwards fire service head of fire safety, Station Manager Karl Venn, said: “This result is a testament of two years' hard work of our Business Fire Safety Team.
“Fire safety breaches are taken very seriously, not only by Avon Fire & Rescue Service but also the criminal justice system, as the outcome of this case has shown."
He said prosecution was a "last resort" and the service was happy to help ensure businesses made their premises safe, with advice available on the service's website.
Mr Venn added: "I would like to remind all business owners, responsible persons and managers that they need to take their fire safety risk assessments seriously and ensure they have taken steps to make sure that the people working, living or using their premises are safe."
The fire at the tower block was the first of two huge blazes at the former engineering works.
Five months later, in May 2019, a second fire destroyed another building on the same site, next to Deep Pit Lane, which was used by 30 businesses for workshops and storage.
The Voice understands that no prosecution is currently being planned over the second fire, which left the building in such a dangerous state that it was deemed unsafe for police or fire investigators to go in and examine.
Picture: Firefighters tackle the blaze at the tower block section ofthe former Strachan and Henshaw building on New Year's Eve 2018.