Furious residents attended a packed meeting two weeks ago with Peverel officials at the retirement site, which overlooks the sea at Cowes.
Peverel officials Anthony McAllister, the company’s health and safety manager, and Beverley Roberts, the area manager, were told that the company’s actions were a “disgrace”, “high-handed” and that residents had been treated with “contempt”.
“It was an absolutely disgraceful decision that was taken without the slightest discussion,” says Tom Tyson, 80, an ex-fireman who, like many of the 66 apartment-owners, used the pool every day. Many do so on the strong advice of their doctors.
“One woman was in tears because of all this. It has caused a huge amount of stress and ill feeling.”
In an initial statement to Carlex, Peverel denied that “the pool was drained at any point”, but it later corrected this misinformation.
It also insisted that “We consulted with residents to see if they wanted the depth of the pool to be altered and provided costs for this work for residents to review.”
There was little evidence of consultation with the residents in the correspondence of Beverley Roberts.
She notified Briary Court on September 30 that the pool would be closed.
“We have taken the decision to close the pool until costs have been obtained to put measures in place to reduce the risk to pool users,” she wrote.
On October 1 she wrote individually to residents to provide “further explanation”.
Here it emerged that the six-foot depth of the swimming pool at the deep end was the problem, and Roberts would be getting quotes to make it shallower.
“The depth of your pool is in excess of 1.5 metres. The Health & Safety Guidance (HSG) states that various hazards/risks have been identified as factors in past deaths or serious injuries and those relevant at Briary Court are:
“Prior health problems (eg heart trouble, impaired hearing or sight, epilepsy);
“Youth and inexperience (half of those who drown are under the age of 15);
“Absence of, or inadequate response by, lifeguards in an emergency.
“The way to reduce these risks would be:-
1) Employ a lifeguard
2) Reduce the depth of the pool and have a floating alarm
“We are currently in the process of obtaining quotes for the second option.”
Residents were appalled by the suggestion, which was being presented to them as a fait accompli. Sums of £10,000 – £20,000 were mentioned to pay for this.
“If we had wanted to float rubber ducks we would have bought a paddling pool,” says Tyson.
Residents also scorned the suggestion that “youth and inexperience” were a significant ‘elf ‘n’ safety’ hazard in a retirement site’s swimming pool.
They have pointed an accusing finger at Anthony McAllister, Peverel’s in-house health and safety manager, who in June whipped up a fury at Homepine House, in Folkestone, over a supposed £70,000 fire safety upgrade. (Peverel has been asked for a statement on this issue.)
“McAllister thought he was going to be giving us chapter and verse and we would just roll over,” says Tyson. “But it didn’t go his way at all.”
After the residents issued veiled threats of legal action, the idea of reducing the swimming pool’s depth was dropped. Instead, it was decided to have signs indicating the deep and shallow ends.
A floating alarm was also discussed, but discarded as a practical idea as it could be out of reach in the seven-metre pool.
“Ironically, they recently spent a fortune of our money modernising the fire alarms, but we cannot actually hear them from some of the flats,” says Tyson.
Peverel is employed on the site by the freehold-owning company Proxima GR, which is part of the Tchenguiz Family Trust. It owns the overwhelming majority of the retirement freeholds that Peverel manages.
Indeed, until the arrest of Vincent and Robert Tchenguiz in March 2011, the Tchenguiz Family Trust, which owns one per cent of all the residential freeholds in the UK – including those of 53,000 retirement flats – also owned Peverel itself.
Around 70-80 per cent of Peverel’s business still comes from the Tchenguiz Family Trust.
“Many residents are now questioning whether their best interests are served by Peverel,” said Tyson. “This is a site that would be better served if we went for right to manage.”
Local MP Andrew Turner is being kept informed of events at the site, as is Sir Peter Bottomley. Both were included in the Carlex correspondence with Peverel.
‘Consultation’ – Peverel style
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The contradictory statements from Peverel
Q: Can you give precise details why Peverel Retirement had health and safety concerns about the pool?
A: We can confirm that the pool was not drained at any point and has now reopened. The welfare of our residents is our upmost priority and following a review of the swimming pool in accordance with guidance from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the decision was taken to temporarily close the swimming pool. After consultation with the residents and the implementation of new safety measures, the pool has now reopened.
We consulted with residents on changing the depth of the pool and provided costings for this work. Residents confirmed that they were happy to keep the pool at its current depth.
Q: Have any accidents ever been recorded there?
A: We do not have any recorded accidents concerning the swimming pool at Briary Court.
Q: Apart from indicating the depths of the shallow and deep end, is Peverel wishing to introduce any other health and safety features to the pool area of Briary Court, or is this issue closed
A: In accordance with guidance from the HSE, there will now be clear instructions around the pool area plus an emergency call button linking to CarelineUK. Signage around the pool will state that a responsible adult should be present when children are swimming.
Q: Did Peverel propose making the swimming pool area more shallow, and were costings obtained for this work?
A: We consulted with residents to see if they wanted the depth of the pool to be altered and provided costs for this work for residents to review. Residents confirmed they are happy with the other changes we are implementing to safeguard pool users and chose not to alter the depth of the pool.
Q: Are the assessments of Peverel’s health and safety manager, which will obviously have cost implications and generate revenue for Peverel owing to the administration involved, open to outside scrutiny and confirmation by health and safety experts of the residents’ choosing?
A: Regular health and safety assessments are included as part of our management fee and Peverel Group does not receive any additional income for this. We discussed and agreed all options and associated costs with residents.
Q: Is there a procedure for this?
A: All of our staff are required to adhere to our Health and Safety policy. Health and safety assessments are an important part of our management of developments.
– ENDS –
To be attributed to a Peverel Retirement spokesperson A health and safety audit was required for the swimming pool at Briary Court. The audit raised concerns relating to the latest HSE guidance (Health and Safety Guidance 179) which required changes to be made to protect users. While our staff gathered options and costings for introducing measures to resolve these concerns, the pool was temporarily closed.
While the pool was closed for health and safety reasons, we took the opportunity to carry out a deep clean, which required the pool to be drained twice to remove cleaning chemicals. This will therefore prevent the need to shut the pool again at a later date.
Residents were invited to a meeting with our Area Manager, House Manager and Health and Safety Manager to discuss options to ensure the pool could be used safely.
All options including altering the depth of the pool, clear signage, and new safety equipment were discussed with residents to ensure they fully understood all associated costs and possible risks. After consultation with the residents, it was agreed that the depth of the pool would not be altered and other safety measures would be implemented. These measures include clearly marking the depth of the pool, safety floats and the addition of an emergency call button.
We were informed that on occasion, children swim in the pool when visiting residents. This was highlighted by the health and safety audit as an important concern and it was agreed with residents that children aged 15 and under should be supervised at all times and that there should be a limit of three children per adult.
With these necessary safety measures in place, residents and visitors can enjoy the pool safely.
– ENDS –