Hotel group pays £127,000 after ‘cavalier disregard’ of fire safety

A luxury hotel near Manchester has had to pay £127,000 for what a judge called a ‘cavalier disregard’ for the safety of guests.

Hallmark Hotels pleaded guilty to three breaches of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 at Chester Crown Court yesterday (05 Oct 2010).

The Hallmark Manchester – formerly the Belfry House Hotel in Wilmslow – was visited by fire-fighters in April 2008 during renovations. According to Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service, they were so concerned about what they found that fire safety officers were brought in the same day and served a prohibition notice closing the hotel.

The court heard that there was no operable automatic detection or manual call points on the third floor of the 160-capacity hotel, while on other floors there were faulty smoke detectors and substandard fire exits. Also staff had not been properly trained in fire safety.

The hotel was allowed to reopen four days later after remedial action was taken.

Hallmark Hotels was fined £75,000 (£25,000 for each offence) and ordered to pay costs of £52,000.

Lee Shears, manager for community fire protection at Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service said: “Fire safety is a key part of good business management and the Hallmark Hotel Group showed little or no regard for the safety of their guests or employees…”

Following the case, Anne Whitehead, health and safety officer at Hallmark Hotels said:

“Everyone at Hallmark Hotels is hugely frustrated with yesterday’s proceedings. We inherited a catalogue of issues when the hotel was acquired and were in the process of resolving these issues as part of Hallmark Hotel Manchester’s £5m refurbishment programme. Work was completed on resolving every one of the fire officer’s concerns shortly after the visit.

“To this day Hallmark Hotels holds an unblemished record of fire safety and would like to assure all guests that their comfort and well-being is of paramount importance at all times.”