We have been left in limbo after Strachan and Henshaw fire

June 02 2019
We have been left in limbo after Strachan and Henshaw fire

PEOPLE whose livelihoods went up in flames in the huge fire at the Strachan and Henshaw building say they have been left in limbo.

Around 30 businesses used the site of the former engineering works, on the corner of Deep Pit Road and Foundry Lane, Speedwell, for storage or workshops.

Some were completely destroyed in the blaze on May 3 and all are now out of bounds, as the building has been declared unsafe. It is now due to be demolished and has been fenced off, with on-site security.

But the business owners based at the building still don’t have any answers to their questions: how the fire started, whether they will receive any compensation or even be able to access their premises to see if there is anything left to salvage.

Michael Dubique ran upholstery and furniture business the Bristol Sofa Doctor from a unit at the site for six years.

He said: “I have lost everything. My livelihood is gone, my business has gone.

It’s a nightmare – you wake up thinking you’ve got work to go to and then you realise there’s nothing there anymore. You can’t pick anything back up. You can’t get into the building or get any information.

I’m getting work offers but I can’t take the offers because I haven’t got any tools, because they were in there.

We set up a meeting (with the police, council and fire service) to get answers but we didn’t get any because it is still under investigation. We’re just left in limbo.”

Mr Dubique said there had been numerous fires at the site before, including a major blaze last New Year’s Eve, which is believed to have been started by a faulty fuse box. There have also been floods.

In 2015 the building’s then owner was jailed for health and safety offences. But one of the problems facing businesses now is that it is not clear who the current legal owner is.

Bristol City Council says it belongs to Douglas Homes Housing Incorporated. But the only positive link for an online search of that name is to a series of breaches of safety and asbestos regulations posted by the Health and Safety Executive in March.

Its contact details are care of an address in Moravian Road, Kingswood, but councillor Sultan Khan, whose Eastville ward includes the Strachan and Henshaw site, says the business is registered in Dubai.

He said: “There are a lot of questions, like who is the legal owner, did they have insurance and will they be able to pay compensation?

A lot of people never got proper documentation. Some weren’t able to get insurance.

The worst thing is that it’s got asbestos as well.

Mr Khan said there had been calls for the building to be boarded up before it is demolished, after people were seen going in to the site and even posting video footage from inside.

He said: “I hope people realise that it’s not safe and they are taking a risk going in. The structure is very volatile – don’t put your life at risk.”

A Bristol City Council spokesperson said: “Full responsibility for the site, the clear up process and liaising with tenants and businesses is with the owner, Douglas Homes Housing Incorporated.

Within the powers available to the council we are continuing to offer support to the site owner and affected businesses.”

 Picture: Avon Fire and Rescue Service/Bedminster Fire Station