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Wednesday, 20 September, 2000, 13:50 GMT 14:50 UK
No permission for fire death flat
Barred window
The basement flat windows were barred
The landlord of a flat in Glasgow where two students died in a fire has admitted he was refused planning permission for the property.

Herpal Singh, 47, also told a fatal accident inquiry that he had not given the dead students' deposits and month's rent in advance of 900 to their families.

James Fraser, and Daniel Heron, both 20, were killed in the fire on 4 March 1999, just five days after they rented the flat in Melrose Street, Woodlands.

Their flatmate, Christopher Lewis, also 20, escaped because he decided to sleep in the adjoining living room.

I just wanted to see the outcome of the case

Herpal Singh, asked why he had not returned the money
Mr Singh told the inquiry at Glasgow Sheriff Court that he owned 14 letting properties throughout the city, most of which were rented to students.

He makes 30,000 a year from tenants in the building where the fire happened.

He said he had filled in a pink form seeking permission for multiple occupancy and sent it to the council.

Depute fiscal Mr John Service asked him:"Are you sure about that?" Mr Singh replied: "Yes."

He agreed with Mr Service that his application for permission to change the use of the basement flat for multiple occupancy had been refused by the council in 1984.

Herpal Singh
Herpal Singh outside the court
He appealed through his solicitor to the secretary of state for Scotland but this was refused.

Mr Service asked:"And did you continue to rent out during the appeal period?" Mr Singh replied:"Yes."

He said he did not apply to a new unit set up by the council for multiple occupancy flats to be registered because he did not fall into that categorty.

But he did agree that 16 people were living in the building where the two students died. The hearing has already heard that the windows were barred.

By 1999 he said he did not apply for multiple occupancy for the basement because only two people were living there.

Bedroom photographs

Asked by Sheriff Charles McFarlane, QC, if he knew what constituted multiple occupancy he replied:"Yes, if there's more than two people staying."

He admitted however, at the time of the blaze he knew there were three young men in the flat.

Mr Singh said there was only one single bed in each of the two bedrooms and denied he made arrangements for an extra bed to be delivered.

Another barred window
Planning permission was refused
Mr Service told him that photographs clearly showed two single beds in one room and a double bed in another and asked:"You do you explain that?"

He replied:"I don't know."

When asked why he was holding onto the students' deposits, Mr Singh replied: "I just wanted to see the outcome of the case."

Mr Service: "Is there any reason why you should have held onto that 450?" "No," was the response.

The inquiry heard that the fire was caused by a smouldering cigarette end.

Quizzed about smoke alarms Mr Singh was adamant that there were two in the flat - one lying on top of a freezer in the kitchen, and the other on the hall ceiling.

He said both were in working order and fitted with batteries and that he tested them before the boys went into the flat.

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19 Sep 00 | Scotland
Fire death crews 'hampered'
18 Sep 00 | Scotland
Fire flat alarm in pieces
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