A COMPANY has been fined £110,000 for running a “fire trap” hotel in York city centre and putting at least 1,300 people’s lives at risk.

Management at the Lamb and Lion Inn in High Petergate were warned three times in a year that their fire alarm system needed attention, Karen Galloway for North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, told York magistrates.

But they did not replace it until after fire officers forced the hotel to close while its fire safety measures were brought up to standard.

She said a guest who stayed at the hotel between December 2016 and March 2017 described it as a “fire trap” and that in the same period, 1,300 people had stayed in the hotel.

“The hotel has operated for many months and continued to take bookings despite many warnings that the (alarm) system would not work properly in the event of a fire,” she said.

Fire alarm engineers had warned the hotel about it in January 2016, again in July 2016 and in December 2016 had told the hotel its fire alarm system needed replacing urgently.

Ms Galloway said when fire officers inspected the hotel on March 9, 2017, after an anonymous tip off, they found the fire alarm out of action and a catalogue of other fire safety problems at the 12-bed hotel, including faulty fire doors, a smoke hazard that could block the one exit from the upper floors and flammable items such as linen stored without fire protection.

Ben Williams, for Sloping Tactics Ltd of Halifax, which owned the hotel at the time, said it had been “patching” up the fire alarm problems from January 2016 and hadn’t realised the fire alarm had been “condemned” until two days before the fire officers’ visit.

It had started the process of replacing the fire alarm system in December 2016.

He denied that the company had delayed replacing the fire alarm for financial reasons or had flagrantly ignored fire safety. He said there was a night porter patrolling the building.

The company pleaded guilty to three charges of breaching fire safety regulations between December 2016 and March 2017 and was fined £110,000 with £2,863.39 costs and a £170 statutory surcharge.

After sentence, Mr Williams said the company couldn’t “discharge” or pay the fines.

Earlier he had said the company was currently not trading but did have finance.

Ms Galloway said the hotel was sold by SlopingTactics Ltd to Lamb and Lion (UK) Ltd in March 2017 for £2.7 million.

Fire station manager David Watson said after the court case: “North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service will in most cases give responsible persons chance to comply with the legislation before taking legal proceedings.

"However, where cases are found where there is risk to life of death or serious injury in the event of fire, prosecution will be considered and where appropriate taken.

"In this case the responsible person co-operated with the investigation and acted quickly to put things right, however the seriousness of the failings meant that a prosecution was appropriate.

“Across the North Yorkshire and the City of York North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service find that many businesses and sole traders are proactive in managing their fire safety well.

"Sadly there are still too many occasions, like this case, where businesses are unaware or ignoring what they should be doing. As a service we provide free fire safety advice to businesses and the public.

"We engage with various trade organisations and individual businesses to raise awareness of best practice around fire safety."

In a statement, North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service said of the prohibition notice that temporarily closed the hotel in March 2017:    "A fire safety officer deemed that the fire alarm system was inadequate as in the event of a fire there was a risk that people would not be given adequate warning, and that even with a night watchman it could not be guaranteed that all residents would be safe."

"There were also a number of other fire safety matters which caused concern, including fire doors which were held open and the poor storage of combustible materials in a boiler cupboard and the basement area.

"The fire risk assessment had not identified all the problems despite the company being made aware of some of the matters which required attention.

"Due to the poor fire safety conditions found, a prohibition notice and an enforcement notice were served. On this occasion the prohibition notice informed the responsible person that they must not allow anyone to sleep in the building. The rear ground floor area was also restricted from being used."