A landlord showed a “callous disregard” for safety as he left tenants to live in “squalor” in a former hotel which had just one emergency exit, a court was told.
Fire and council officers found a catalogue of breaches of regulations when they searched the seemingly derelict New Kimberley Hotel in South Beach in March last year.
Inside the 190-bed property investigators found four tenants, despite the building having no working fire alarm system, combustible materials close to the exit and other escape routes chained or nailed shut.
Landlord Peter Metcalf is today behind bars after being sentenced to 18 months in prison by Preston Crown Court for ignoring regulations that posed a “serious risk to life”.
Metcalf, 51, formerly of the Halfway House Hotel, Squires Gate, had previously been found guilty of 15 offences relating to breaches at the property. These included beds blocking fire escapes, gas cyclinders by the only exit, a lack of emergency lighting, disconnected fire alarms and no working fire alarm system.
Fire bosses today welcomed the sentence - the longest ever handed down for an offence of breaching official fire safety regulations.
Dave Russel, assistant chief fire officer for Lancashire Fire and Rescue, said: “We’re extremely pleased with the outcome of the case.
“Officers said they had never seen a building providing accommodation in such a poor state of disrepair and such poor fire safety standards.
“This is an individual who showed blatant disregard where he had a moral and statutory duty.
“The property had a number of breaches of fire safety and extremely poor fire safety management. It presented a serious risk to life.”
The court heard four people were living in the property, paying up to £50 each week in rent.
Mr Russel added: “If a fire had started in it we could have been facing a loss of life.”
The court heard how despite fire officers making attempts to discuss the property’s fire safety management they were ignored by Metcalf, who even threatened the service with legal action.
Metcalf, who represented himself in court, was found guilty by Blackpool Magistrates’ Court in May of 15 charges.
Sentencing him, Judge Anthony Russell QC said the landlord’s previous convictions, which included breaches of food hygiene regulations while the New Kimberley still operated as a hotel, left him with no option but to jail him.
He told Metcalf: “There had been attempts to speak to you and visit the property but you had been obstructive and threatening.
“You said [the tenants] were grown adults and if they didn’t like the situation that was their lookout.
“It shows to me a callous disregard for safety of people living in premises for which you were responsible.”
Metcalf has also been ordered to pay a penalty of more than £5,200, to cover the £2,143.46 costs of the investigation and £3,100 legal costs.
Coun Simon Blackburn, Leader of Blackpool Council, said: “The minute we inspected the New Kimberley Hotel we knew it was a death trap, and acted quickly to get it closed down and to work with the Fire Service to bring the owners to justice.
“The state the hotel was in was nothing short of abysmal and I’m happy that the judge has agreed that this is a crime deserving of a severe sentence. Fire safety is no laughing matter and property owners who fail to make their premises secure are putting lives at risk.
“We have worked together with Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service throughout and together we will continue to tackle landlords who fail in their obligations.”