Alarm company ordered to pay £30m

An alarm company has been ordered to pay £30 million in interim damages to the owners of Weston-super-Mare’s Grand Pier, following the fire that completely destroyed the pier’s pavilion in 2008.

Judge Mark Havelock-Allan, QC, found a “high degree of negligence” from alarm firm System 2 Security (S2S), which went into administration just before the case came to court, the BBC reported.

Dozens of fire-fighters tackled the blaze, which devastated the partly wooden pier, first opened in 1904, in the North Somerset seaside resort during the early hours 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.

Bristol Mercantile Court was told that there would be a judgement for Grand Pier Limited (GPL) against S2S for damages for breach of contract and for negligence.

The judge said the first breach was in not insisting the pier owners, Kerry and Michelle Michael, provide the name and contact details of more than one key holder.

The second was in failing to warn the new owners, who bought the pier in 2008, 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”.

The contract for the maintenance and monitoring of the pier’s fire alarm system that the Michaels held with S2S had been subcontracted to Essex-based Yeoman Monitoring Services.

Yeoman reached an undisclosed out-of-court settlement with the pier owners last August to end its involvement in the court proceedings, although with no admission of liability.

The court heard that although the fire alarm had gone off at 01:35 on the day of the fire, the fire brigade had not been called until nearly 07:00.

Mr Michael told the BBC he was pleased with what he called the complete vindication of GPL, its directors and staff.

He said: “It has cost us hundreds of thousands of pounds to pursue this judgement and we did so knowing that System 2 Security 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 S2S has now retired with his company in administration.

The pier was rebuilt and reopened in October 2010.