A Lancaster-based charity, dedicated to aiding refugees and asylum seekers, has been instructed to uninstall the fire doors recently placed in its new residence.

Global Link, a global education charity located in Lancaster, marked its 30th anniversary this year. The organisation primarily focuses on assisting refugees and asylum seekers in the district, currently engaging with over 600 vulnerable individuals. For several years, Global Link had been eager to acquire a building for stable, long-term headquarters. In April 2022, a supporter presented the charity with the opportunity to purchase a Grade II-listed residential building in the city centre. The property had been previously occupied by students for an extended period.

The charity successfully obtained permission to repurpose the building into a community education centre. In accordance with building and fire regulations, they replaced numerous old doors with fire doors, installed a fire alarm system, and added double plasterboard to many of the ceilings. Despite applying for listed building consent to make these modifications, the council's conservation department rejected the request. Subsequently, an enforcement notice has been issued to Global Link, instructing them to replace the fire doors with the original ones and to delicately remove the ceilings.

Gisela Renolds, Global Link’s Director, stated: "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.

"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.

"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.

"We understand that the approved inspector 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 work on the building.

"This is especially important because national legislation makes it 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.

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

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