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Nightclub nightmare looms in Manchester - Clubs are fire hazards, says official

Published:Monday | November 7, 2016 | 11:00 AMJovan Johnson
Porteous

Hundreds of patrons who flock nightclubs in Manchester are being warned that they put their lives at risk each time they enter the buildings.

Addressing a Gleaner Jobs and Growth Forum last week, Rohan Powell, acting deputy superintendent at the Manchester Fire Brigade, said many of the clubs are fire hazards because entrances are also exits, and his brigade can do little about it because of the absence of suitable regulations.

"It's like tying our hands," Powell said, noting that firefighters need the regulations under the Fire Brigade Act to enable them to take action such as shutting down clubs.

"Take, for instance, granting licences to bar owner, to clubs, places where the chance for mass-casualty events exist. I can use a very good example - Caledonia Mall Plaza. A lot of clubs are there. But these are places that, when you get in them, four persons can't adequately move in a rush without you having a stampede," he told The Gleaner.

"There's a nightclub I've been inside and I pray they are never having an event in there and there's something that people have to leave, because it's one way in and one way out. These are disastrous things. We need the power to go in to act to prosecute persons, to force persons to adhere to building codes. Our primary goal is saving lives."

Powell said in the absence of the required regulations, the fire brigade depends on the parish council enforcing legislation that can support their work.

The total number of violating clubs is yet to be ascertained.

The Gleaner has sought a response from Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie to the concerns of the firefighter.

PLAZAS ALSO A PROBLEM

Meanwhile, the senior fireman said nightclubs are not the only problems, as some plazas are constructed without separate exits.

"Caledonia is one. Once you go in, it's a box - one way in, one way out. These are serious places. You go in and there's no exit on the other side if there's an incident on the other side."

Sally Porteous, custos of Manchester and a former deputy mayor of Mandeville, said the violating nightclubs should be "shut down", while plaza operators should be forced to put in separate exits.

"I can't remember how many nightclubs I closed down. You go in and you tell them 'your place is unsafe' and 'you have so much time where you can rectify it'. There should never be a nightclub anywhere that has one entrance, one exit."

Chairman of the Manchester Parish Council, Brenda Ramsay, said the clubs and plazas will be under tighter scrutiny.

"The major concern for the council is, when the applications come in for these buildings, you do not get an application to say 'I will be utilising it for this specific purpose', and so even when you approve it, it's for offices. Over time, conversions do take place. The applications to become a club do not come to local authority. I don't even know if there is a place where [those go]. There are a lot of issues that we have been saying that we need to address," she told The Gleaner.

"For the one exit-entrance, as long as the space is large enough, I do not think that should pose a problem," she said of plazas.

On clubs, Ramsay said if they do not put in separate exits, "then surely closure is the next option".

jovan.johnson@gleanerjm.com