Bideford hotel operator fined for fire safety breach
11:59 20 September 2012
Tantons owners handed hefty court fine.
OWNERS of a Bideford hotel have been fined for breaching fire safety regulations after a major blaze in which 55 people were evacuated in the middle of the night.
The company that operates Tantons Hotel, in New Road, was sentenced to fines totalling £40,000 and ordered to pay £10,000 costs at Exeter Crown Court earlier today (Thursday).
Chescombe Limited had previously pleaded guilty to five offences under The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
The prosecution follows a serious blaze at the hotel in the early hours of May 31 last year.
Among those evacuated were four people who were rescued from the roof of the building by police and fire crews after becoming trapped by extreme heat and dense smoke.
Bideford station manager Graham Rooke said after the sentencing that the case had made it clear how important it was for hotel managers to ensure that fire safety precautions were in place.
He said: “The Judge gave a clear indication that a strong message needed to go out to those that manage and invest in hotels about the importance of fire safety.
“Had the finances of the company been in a stronger position, he would have considered fines of between £25,000 and £35,000 for each of the five offences.”
The level of fines reflected a long period of non-compliance and a lack of action and priority by the hotel operators to fire safety.
Mr Rooke said a number of potential fire safety breaches were identified at the time of the incident, and through further investigation.
He said: “Generally, the standards of accommodation within Devon and Somerset are very good. However, the Fire Authority believed that in this case, the fire safety breaches within the hotel were of such a serious nature that legal action was required.
“It is my firm belief that the actions of the on-scene emergency services and a member of the hotel staff undoubtedly saved lives that would have been lost.
“It is important that those people who are responsible for these types of properties understand the law regarding fire safety and what is required of them, and that they realise that any failings will be taken seriously by the service.”
Legislation places a duty on the responsible person for the premises to take steps to prevent the loss of life, property and business by completing a fire risk assessment and ensuring that appropriate fire safety measures are in place.
The responsible person from the Tantons Hotel pleaded guilty to a number of offences, including:
• Failure to implement the requirements highlighted in a fire risk assessment.
• Failure to maintain the fire alarm system to the appropriate standard.
• Failure to ensure that all fire resisting doors met the appropriate standard.
• Failure to ensure that all escape routes were unobstructed and all final exit doors could be easily opened in the event of danger.