Lancaster charity ordered to remove fire doors from new home because it’s a listed building

A Lancaster charity which supports refugees and asylum seekers has been told it must remove the fire doors installed its new home.
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Global Link is a global education charity based in Lancaster which this year celebrated its 30th anniversary.

Much of its work is supporting refugees and asylum seekers in the district, and it currently works with more than 600 vulnerable people.

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Global Link had for several years been wanting to buy a building as a long-term base, and in April 2022 a supporter offered to sell the charity a residential Grade II listed building in the city centre, which had been occupied by students for many years.

The old doors which were removed from the new Global Link home.The old doors which were removed from the new Global Link home.
The old doors which were removed from the new Global Link home.

The charity secured change of use to use the building as a community education centre. They also had to comply with building and fire regulations, and so replaced many of the old doors with fire doors, as well as installing a fire alarm system and double plasterboard to most of the ceilings.

However, listed building consent to make these alterations to the building was applied for but refused by the council's conservation department who have now issued an enforcement notice to Global Link to replace the fire doors with the original doors and to ‘carefully’ remove the ceilings.

Global Link’s director Gisela Renolds said: "We are in a Kafkaesque situation where one department of the city council requires us to have full fire safety measures in place and another department is taking enforcement action against us because we do.

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"When the planning department gave us planning permission for change of use it should have been obvious to them, as it was to us, that we would need to implement requisite fire safety measures to comply with building and fire regulations.

The new doors had to meet fire safety regulations.The new doors had to meet fire safety regulations.
The new doors had to meet fire safety regulations.

"We provide an absolutely vital service to over 600 of the most vulnerable people in our community and need this building to continue to do so.

"We have now appealed against the enforcement action and hope that the planning department will drop it – we are storing the doors in our cellar to replace them again if the building returns to residential use in the future!"

A city council spokesman said: "The initial building regulations advice that the occupiers of the building received (to replace the doors) was not provided by the city council. It was provided by a private sector approved inspector.

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"We understand that the approved iInspector is no longer handling this building regulation submission, and so the case has now reverted to the city council to remedy instead.

"Our primary focus and goal is to ensure all matters are fully addressed and that users of the building are safe. Our building control officers will work with colleagues from the fire service to achieve this.

"From a planning perspective, it is the responsibility of the owners/occupiers of the building to ensure that they have obtained full Listed Building Consent before they undertake works to the building.

"This is especially important because national legislation is clear that carrying out work without first obtaining Listed Building Consent where such works materially affect the historic or architectural significance of the building, is an offence.

"Whilst some local authorities may choose to pursue prosecution, the city council has instead served a Listed Building Enforcement Notice which sets out how the situation can be remedied."

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