A FIRE that swept through a stairwell in a block of flats on Camberley's Old Dean estate could have been prevented if security locks had been fixed, a borough councillor claims.

Old Dean councillor Margaret Moher said the problem was pointed out to Surrey Heath Housing Association (SHHA) six months ago.

But its director of housing David Walsh was confident the repairs would have been carried out and said it was possible the door entry system could have broken during that time.

He said the flats complied with building and fire regulations when they were built and there were "thousands of properties" across the country which did not comply with current requirements.

Cllr Moher said the latest arson "had come as no surprise" as SHHA "hadn't done anything".

She said many flats only had one escape route and if the February 25 fire had been in the centre of the block it may have trapped many residents.

Some were evacuated as firefighters tackled the stairwell flames at 6pm. They caused extensive smoke damage.

Arsonists have struck four times in the Bracknell Road flats. Many residents fear for their safety if it happens again.

A police spokesman said they were treating the numerous incidents as "very serious".

In last Friday's News resident Michelle Davies said teenagers often loitered on the stairs.

The single mum said they refused to leave when asked and residents were "in fear for their lives".

Cllr Moher claimed the broken locks on the Bracknell Road and Esher Road flats were shown to SHHA and Surrey Heath Council on an Old Dean walkabout in September.

Beforehand she had received complaints that "children had been using the flats and maisonettes as public toilets, and had been setting fire to the premises".

She said the repairs needed were minor and felt there was "a tragedy waiting to happen" if they were not carried out.

Cllr Moher cited a 1990 incident when a woman died in a blaze at an Esher Road flat.

"It could be a lot worse than that. There are 12 maisonettes in that block; I just dread to think.

"The residents are wondering what will happen next."

Mr Walsh was "not aware" of a problem in Bracknell Road: "In any one of the blocks of flats we are carrying out repairs as and when they need to be done.

"It may well be that the repairs have been carried out and the doors are not working for whatever reason.

"When repairs are reported they are a priority and done as soon as possible.

"With the door entry systems, they get a lot of use and they are repaired at regular intervals."