Agenda item

New Ferry - A Report on the Incident and the Acute and Recovery Phases


Mark Camborne, Lead Commissioner, Community Services and Resilience, introduced a report and gave David Ball’s apologies to the Committee, as he was unwell. The report evaluated the role played by the Council, the emergency services and other key stakeholders in respect of the gas explosion in New Ferry in March 2017. In particular, the level of effectiveness of the Council and its partners during the respective acute and recovery phases.


In addition the report provided an update on the Council and its key strategic partners’ role in leading the current regeneration phase and any next steps.


During considerable discussion on the report, Mark Camborne, David Armstrong (Assistant Chief Executive) and Ray Squire (Economic Projects Manager) responded to questions and their comments included:


·  An explanation as to how a ‘major incident’ could be declared and this could be by any agency. Mark Camborne, as one of the first Council officers to arrive on the scene, had defaulted to the Chief Fire Officer who was there and was dealing with the acute phase of the incident and was in essence the lead officer at the scene with control of the site.

·  There was a meeting of people on site at the time but he would not class this as a typical Strategic Coordinating Group, which would meet in a designated command and control centre, such as at Bridle Road.

·  Council officers provided what was requested by the Chief Fire Officer, such as closure of roads and the removal of some rubble to clear a pathway through the site whilst remaining mindful that the police would need to investigate the incident too. Once the Chief Fire Officer had been provided with all that the Council could provide Mark Camborne and David Armstrong then went to help at the Life Centre church where people had been displaced to.

·  Upwards of £400,000 had been spent on demolition work, with much of the rubble and timber being removed to the site of the former Rock Ferry High School where a crushing plant was already in place to deal with demolition work taking place there.

·  Progress had been made with regard to negotiations for the acquisition of properties affected by the explosion, although some negotiations were more protracted than others.

·  With regard to health provision there were clear tried and tested plans in place and with the reception centre having been set up at the Life Church, Bebington, ambulance crews and medics were in that facility for the first 24/36 hours dealing with people who presented at the Life Church. People also presented at Walk-In centres and Accident and Emergency, an immediate concern was dealing with shock.

·  In the medium to long term it was hoped people would refer to their own GP in respect of mental health issues and he was also aware that health representatives were present at most, if not all, the public meetings which had taken place during the recovery phase.

·  Through the emergency planning process, the on-call Gold Commander for the NHS was aware of the incident and they put plans in place to deal with the incident, and there were medical practitioners there to deal with the acute phase. It was acknowledged that maybe more could have been done by the health service in terms of help with mental health issues that may have arisen. People were seen to in ambulances on a one to one basis.

·  The Council officers did provide support on a practical level but the health needs were more appropriately provided by medical practitioners.

·  With regard to the condition of the site, the Council did not own any of it so permission was required from landowners and it would have been better if the Council had been able to improve the site sooner but negotiations had to take place with owners of some buildings, which had to be cleared out first, prior to demolition.

·  With regard to ongoing mental health services provision this would need to be asked of the mental health service for them to address if there were to be any future incidents.

·  With regard to consultation a number of senior officers did spend some time with people affected by the incident listening to the positive aspects of the Council’s response along with comments on what the Council could learn. David Ball, Assistant Director Major Growth Projects and Housing Delivery, had also spent several months in the area feeding information back to the Council.

·  Council staff who attended the site did have access to the Employee Assistance Programme through which they could access confidential counselling services. Formal debriefing sessions had also been held along with informal discussions between officers.

·  The Council would accept a learning point of latent recovery from mental health trauma and there were reviews taking place across a city region level in terms of resilience planning.

·  There were still engagement officers in the area and an engagement plan, albeit unwritten, had been executed. If improvements were required as to how this was carried out then this would be addressed.

·  The Council had addressed the incident in the best way it could with reduced resources and with reduced access to facilities which ten or more years ago would have been at the Council’s disposal (i.e. a significantly reduced workforce and schools, now academy trusts, which the Council no longer had control over).


All Members thanked all the officers involved for all their work on the night of the devastating event and over the months to follow.


The Chair referred to Members’ comments, many of which were addressed in the Merseyside Resilience Forum debrief reports and which could be picked up by a future working party on the matter. There were nine recommendations in the multi-agencies debrief reports, two of which were for working parties in relation to the NHS and health and a further one would be picked up by this Committee in the work programme.


On a motion by the Chair, duly seconded, it was –


Resolved – That the report be noted.

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