Somerset

Weston-super-Mare Grand Pier fire: Alarm firm negligent

  • 2 January 2013
  • From the section Somerset
Media captionThe firm was found to be responsible for a high degree of negligence

An alarm company was negligent over a fire which devastated Weston-super-Mare's pier pavilion in July 2008, a judge has ruled.

The judge at Bristol Mercantile Court found a high degree of negligence from security firm System 2 Security, which has since gone into administration,

The pier's owners Kerry and Michelle Michael have been awarded a £30m interim payment.

The pier was rebuilt and reopened in October 2010.

Although the fire alarm had gone off at 01:35 BST the fire brigade was not called until nearly 07:00.

The pier's owners had a contract for the monitoring of its fire alarm system with System 2 Security (S2S) which it had subcontracted to Essex-based Yeoman Monitoring Ltd.

In August Yeoman Monitoring Services reached an out-of-court settlement with the pier owners to end their involvement in the court proceedings, with no admissions of liability made.

Image caption Smoke from the fire could be seen as far as 10 miles away

The details of that settlement has not been revealed.

The claim against S2S continued because the amount of the settlement was a "great deal less" than the £39,376,453 loss Grand Pier Limited said it suffered.

But days before the trial the sole director of S2S, David Cogle, presented a petition to wind the company up.

His Honour Judge Mark Havelock-Allan QC said there would be a judgement for Grand Pier Limited against S2S for damages for breach of contract and for negligence.

Image caption The Michaels bought the pier in 2008

He said the first breach was in not insisting the pier owners provide the name and contact details of more than one key holder.

The second was in failing to warn the new owners, the Michaels, that the fire alarm system had been subjected to filtering while a previous fault was fixed.

The judge noted it was "more probable that S2S had forgotten to reverse the filtering instruction after the alarm had been repaired".

Speaking after the judgement, Mr Michael said he was pleased with what he called the complete vindication of Grand Pier Limited, its directors and staff.

'Clearly responsible'

He said: "There can be no doubt where the blame lies. It has cost us hundreds of thousands of pounds to pursue this judgement and we did so knowing that System 2 Security Limited was just a shell of a company with little or no assets so we had little chance of seeing any compensation from them."

David Cogle, the former director of System 2 Security, said the firm was put into administration because it "wasn't worth the hassle" of fighting the pier's claim.

Mr Cogle, now retired, said the firm, which had operated for 37 years, was only an agent for the monitoring company.

Image caption The pier reopened in October 2010 - two years after the fire

He said: "We paid over £100,000 in legal costs.

"What it would have cost to fight, it would have finished the company off.

"It was just as easy to retire and let them have judgement."

Dozens of firefighters tackled the blaze, which took hold of the partly wooden pier in the North Somerset seaside resort early on the morning of 28 July 2008.

Fire investigators said the blaze started in an area containing deep fat fryers. Black smoke was visible more than 10 miles away.

The pier first opened in 1904 and was later bought by the Brenner family who sold it in 2008 in a multimillion-pound deal to brother and sister Michelle and Kerry Michael.

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