CONTRACTORS have been drafted in to carry out emergency repairs to make a Stretford multi-storey block safe from a possible Grenfell Tower inferno.

The 23 storey Stretford House, adjacent to Stretford Mall, which was built in 1967, houses 250 residents including elderly people of which many have disabilities and mobility issues.

The emergency repairs are being carried out in the wake of the London fire, and after a former fire officer Phillip Murphy, who happens to live in Stretford House, raised the fears with the landlord Trafford Housing Trust at a meeting held to determine the safety or otherwise of the block.

The block has not had any cladding fitted of the type suspected of spreading the London blaze to its outside, but a £3.4m refurbishment in 2011, which included the installation of a central heating system on the ground floor resulted in contractor's breaking into walls and ceilings to install pipes to individual flats, but leaving holes behind which threatens to speed up the spread of any blaze throughout the building.

The trust is taking the issues so seriously that since a meeting last week it has begun works to rectify some of the concerns including the use of 24 hour walking wardens to alert residents in case of an outbreak and fire safety procedure changes which now mean in the event of a fire they should evacuate the building immediately and carrying out more forensic test to all eight high rise blocks in Trafford

The Messenger understands that Stretford House has fire alarms at the top and bottom of the building but there none on each of the floors or in individual flats, there is no sprinkler system, and doubts have been raised by the most recent fire assessment about safety lighting, dry risers, which provide water to douse a possible blaze and any evacuation procedure down a single stairway.

Mr Murphy, 51, who is the chairman of the block's residents association, inspected buildings for the fire service including Stockport and Trafford prior to his retirement, claimed that fire risk assessments carried out on Stretford House, had been done by an unqualified fire inspector on behalf of the trust.

Mr Murphy said: "In March of last year, I began to ask the for the building's annual fire risk assessments and it took the trust weeks to find one from 2013. I went through it anyway and being an ex-fire safety officer and I found it was full of issues."

"The nature of the assessment in 2013 was not intrusive, it didn’t go into the flats and the assessment was carried out just in the common areas of the building. I found a number of faults with that risk assessment, things that I pointed out was about the fire risk assessor not being qualified."

According to Mr Murphy, the block was assessed on a level one inspection but not as it should have been on a level 4 inspection, which would have led to an inspector picking up on the breaches and also the holes left after the 2011 refurb.

After the Grenfell fire, Mr Murphy held a meeting with Stretford MP Kate Green and the director of property services for THT after which he was presented with a 2016 fire risk assessment for the building, but at which they were given assurances the the trust was on top of the problem with its all of its eight high rises.

Mr Murphy said: "It would seem that they were only acting upon it then, when they should have rectified the problems within four weeks of its July 2016 publication.

"I took the report home and when I read it I was absolutely horrified that the fire assessment had found 44 problems with the Stretford House building, eight of which were of the most serious nature."

Mr Murphy then spent the next week drawing up his own fire assessment based on that report which he has since presented to both residents, THT, and BBC Radio 4

He explained: "I took both the 2013 and 2016 apart word by word and then went back to Trafford Trust and said you can't show me that the dry riser is working, you can't show me the emergency lights are working, you can't show the fire alarm is working, you can't show the fire doors are checked and the indication from both reports is that the fire stopping in the building is inadequate."

Although Mr Murphy is keen to calm the nerves of residents, he says he doesn't believe an evacuation of the block is entirely necessary.

"The trust's reaction was very good initially in that I sent an email on the Tuesday and by 10am on the Wednesday morning they had a housing officer in the foyer of every block in Trafford.

"Initially, I never told the residents what was in my report because I knew that they would worry themselves senseless. A lot of the people in here haven’t got anywhere to go. The people that could move would, while the others would be dragged out of their home. I didn’t want to see that happen and I didn’t want them to be stressed so I hung on as long as possible until I got some of that paperwork, so that when I went to the residents I had a load of concerns some of which have been dealt with now but I wanted them to know I am on with this and acting in their best interests."

Last week, a meeting was held between Mr Murphy, a fire safety officer, councillors, Matthew Gardner the THT chief executive and his deputy Larry Gold, at which he presented his findings.

"Mr Gardiner made a big deal of focussing on the human response that the trust had executed and I had an opportunity to talk and told them about the technical failings that were found in the building.

"When I spelled out what I had found the fire safety officer said he was going to send somebody to Stretford House right away and the next morning after he had looked at the building and spoke to THT, they immediately put in walking wardens through the building and changed the evacuation plan from stay put to get out."

Mr Murphy said the works were currently confined to communal area but at some point would need to be carried out in individual flats to make the building fireproof once more: "THT still has to deal with the residential areas so this is a big piece of work that could go on for a long time, but we have been sat in this building for six years since that refurb.

"As far as THT is concerned, the issues from the 2013 report were not dealt with and neither were the issues raised by the 2016 report. They didn’t seem to think they had to test the fire alarms, they didn’t seem to comprehend or interpret what I was spelling out to them on a very basic level even though they had seen my e-mails. I just don’t think they had the collective expertise to recognise the seriousness of the situation, so they were reluctant to do anything about it.

"The job of the trust is to keep everybody safe in their homes. I think to have laid people open to completely and utterly unacceptable and predicted risk."

Stretford and Urmston MP Kate Green also added her voice saying: "Following the shocking fire at Grenfell Tower, I have been made aware of a number of concerns about fire safety in our tower blocks where action should have been taken sooner, and I have been in contact with Trafford Housing Trust about them.

"I continue to demand assurances, in Parliament, and from THT, the council and other local landlords, that all necessary steps to address fire risks are being taken. I will not tolerate any failure to act that threatens residents’ safety."

As the Messenger went to press Trafford Housing Trust had not responded on issues of concern raised by Mr Murphy.