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Bicester equestrian yard owner fined for a series of fire safety breaches

The owner of an equestrian yard in Bicester has been fined £5,000 for breaches of fire safety legislation that put lives in danger. The case was heard at Oxford Magistrates court on 2 January 2024.  

Fire safety inspectors from Oxfordshire County Council’s Fire and Rescue Service visited the premises in October 2020, where they found that the business owner, Miss Isabelle Taylor, had failed to ensure there was an adequate risk assessment of fire, failed to protect escape routes in case of fire, and failed to provide a working fire alarm and detection system.

The equestrian yard was operating on the ground floor and had two flats provided for staff accommodation above on the first floor.

Following a fire at the site, a fire safety audit was conducted under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, and inspectors found that the premises were so dangerous that they were left with no alternative but to prohibit the use of the building for sleeping until safety measures were improved.

As, a consequence, they ordered the immediate removal of the occupants of the flats on safety grounds by use of a prohibition notice, so that it could not to be used for sleeping.

A further inspection was made of the premises in December 2022 by Oxfordshire County Council’s Fire and Rescue Service, where Miss Taylor was found to be in breach of this prohibition notice. This was due to staff still being allowed to sleep in the building, despite the prohibition notice being in place.

An investigation resulted in Miss Taylor appearing in court (2 January 2024) where she was found guilty of four charges under the fire safety legislation. She received a conditional discharge for three of the charges, with a fine imposed of £5,000 for the remaining. She was also ordered to pay a total of £4969.50 in costs.

Councillor Dr Nathan Ley, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Community Safety, said: “Our fire safety inspectors are finding an increasing number of businesses with sleeping accommodation above, where no fire safety measures have been implemented. Business owners have a legal duty to put fire safety measures in place, and as this case shows, we will not hesitate to take action to ensure the safety of occupants, residents and customers.”

Issuing of a prohibition notice restricts the use of any premises providing accommodation that do not meet the accepted standards of fire safety. Responsible persons – business owners or employers – must accept that they have a duty of care to ensure the accommodation they provide is safe and suitable.