Blackpool hotel where guests live were at risk over lack of fire safety

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“Fire lighting wasn’t adequate and in the dead of night that puts people at even greater risk. The failings here make this a very serious and troubling example of its kind.”

Plaza Beach Hotel, Blackpool
Plaza Beach Hotel, Blackpool

A Blackpool hotel owner put guests’ lives at risk after allowing one of his three venues to ‘go to rack and ruin’.

At Preston Crown Court today (May 13) Aheed Sultan was sentenced after breaching a raft of fire safety regulations at the five-floor Plaza Beach Hotel in Blackpool.

Today’s hearing took place in Sultan’s absence because of his ‘worsening mental state and physical health’. A psychiatric report confirmed the 77-year-old has Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia.

Prosecutor Joe Hart said: “A multi-multi-agency operation was carried out and on September 4 in 2017 a fire safety team leader visited the premises.”

During the inspection of the Albert Road hotel firefighters found fire doors had been wedged open, other self-closing doors didn’t work and one fire door could not be opened.

“Means of escape was not sufficient and if a fire had occurred the relevant persons would have been at risk of death or injury,” Mr Hart said.

“Fire safety begins when pen is put to paper and a company thinks through the problems a premises presents. A suitable fire risk assessment simply hadn’t been carried out.”

Inspectors also found the basement area of the hotel was being used to store bed bases, mattresses and other combustible materials. The staircase leading from the flat to the basement was ‘stacked full’ of combustible materials.

“The fire alarm panel was showing a fire on the second floor but there was no fire,” Mr Hart added.

“Not one of the employees understood how to operate the fire alarm system. Blue tac had been placed into the fault buzzer to deaden the sound.”

Some of the emergency lighting in the hotel, formerly called the Silver Beach Hotel, did not have power and locks on some doors meant they could not be easily and quickly opened if a fire started.

The defects ‘were so severe’ that a prohibition notice was served preventing guests from stopping in certain rooms of the hotel until work was carried out.

Sultan was asked to attend an interview on three occasions but failed to do so. The court heard he has previous food hygiene convictions dating back to 2009 and 2015 and he has entered guilty pleas to the six fire safety offences.

Defence barrister Adam Lodge said the defendant’s son, Dr Adnan Sultan, now has power of attorney over his father’s finances.

“Clearly at the time of the investigations carried out this particular hotel, one of three, was in a very poor state of affairs,” Mr Lodge said.

“There was a risk of death but we submit that was a very low risk. He was already beginning to suffer from his health conditions which may explain why this happened.

“One would simply struggle to understand why an individual would let his hotels go to rack and ruin.

“He was suffering from mental health at the time and may not have been as diligent as he had previously.”

The court heard that Sultan owes £207,763 in unpaid taxes and all three of his company have since been dissolved. He now receives state benefits, is entitled to legal aid, and lives with his son.

The judge, Philip Parry, said he was disappointed no financial information had been provided to the court by Sultan’s son in order to allow him to assess his father’s assets ahead of sentencing.

“I have given opportunity after opportunity to be provided with the sort of financial information that I need.

“They were warned I would be able to draw reasonable inferences that they could pay any financial penalty if they failed to provide this information.”

Judge Parry said Sultan had put guests at ‘great risk’.

“He didn’t pay adequate attention to the responsibilities that he had for fire safety,” the judge said.

“Fire lighting wasn’t adequate and in the dead of night that puts people at even greater risk. The failings here make this a very serious and troubling example of its kind.

“There were no fire safety precautions taken overall.”

Sultan, of The Avenue in Loughton, Essex, was fined £7,700 and ordered to pay a £7,300 contribution towards costs.