A CHESTER hotel has been fined £45,000 over fire safety breaches which a court heard put guests at risk.

The prosecution case, brought by Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service against the Mollington Banastre Hotel in Parkgate Road, centred on failures to make required improvements following fire audits, Chester Crown Court heard on Thursday, November 16.

Prosecuting, Joseph Hart said the fire escape route was an "unacceptable risk" for guests on the second floor of the older part of the building in April 2019, with the route consisting of "uneven surfaces" and a ladder.

Other deficiencies identified in Cheshire Fire Authority's audits included the lack of emergency lighting, a lack of an emergency plan, and deficient fire doors.

As a result of the fire audits, the fire authority prohibited the hotel from using the 12 second-floor bedrooms to accommodate hotel guests until the fire safety issues had been rectified. The court heard guests were given alternative rooms in the hotel at that time.

It was accepted the time period of culpability was about one month, between March 1 and April 2, 2019.

Brook Hotels No1 Ltd owned and managed the Mollington Banastre Hotel, with one of its former directors – Ashok Ummat, now 70, also deemed responsible for the fire safety failings.

Mr Hart said there had been a "wilful blindness to the risk of offending", with a "systematic failure to act" on fire safety.

The court heard Ummat had no previous convictions.

Defending, Richard Matthews said during March 2019, the occupancy of the affected rooms was less than half.

For Ummat, the defendant had spent his professional life in the hotel business, having worked as a vice president of a chain of international hotels, and now had no active part in Brook Hotels No1 Ltd.

The judge, Recorder Michael Hayton KC, remarked it was "a very sad way to end his career" with the loss of his previous good character.

Mr Matthews added: "With hindsight, he should have done more."

He added the hotel had, like many hospitality venues, been hit hard during the pandemic financially.

The judge said, "for one calendar month", there "remained a risk to residents at the second floor", and that for one third of the day those residents were at elevated risk as they would have been asleep in those rooms.

He added there was a fire alarm and procedures in place that would have meant in the event of a fire, "many residents would have made their way to safety without any difficulty at all".

The judge added: "This is a long-established, well-respected local business that employs local people", which was "saddled with debt" as a result of the pandemic, but appeared "to be making a turn for the better as income increases".

Brook Hotels No1 Ltd was fined a total of £45,000 and ordered to pay prosecution costs totalling £20,000.

The judge said while it was a "sad episode" for Ummat, it "could have been a tragic" one if there had been a fire at the hotel.

Ummat was fined £2,000.