Published: 01:00, 22 November 2018
| Updated: 08:32, 28 November 2018
Major work to improve fire safety in buildings in the Old Tannery has started - more than three years after a blaze ripped through the development, destroying and damaging 45 homes.
It involves re-locating dozens of families and tenants into temporary accommodation for around eight weeks while urgent repairs are carried out to "rectify construction faults".
A lack of adequate fire protection in the terrace was quickly suspected for the outbreak being able to spread so rapidly in properties in Creine Mill Lane North in July, 2015.
Now developer Bellway Homes says it has consulted with specialists which have recommended works to the floors, ceiling and walls in nine blocks.
A Kent Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said: “We have been in touch with the approved building control inspector on behalf of Bellway Homes and have consulted on the plans for the works at the site in relation to compliance with the legislation and guidance.”
The company has also written to the residents affected admitted there are construction faults and says the work will be progressed block by block to minimise disruption.
The work comes as no surprise to city councillor Michael Dixey whose ward includes the Old Tannery.
"It was evident there was something seriously wrong with the construction at the time because of the way the fire spread so rapidly," he said.
"The trouble is that the current building regulations are inadequate but I welcome anything which will improve fire safety for those residents."
The city centre development of more than 400 homes is of a timber-framed construction.
Bellway Homes insists they complied with all necessary building regulations but in the aftermath of the blaze managing agents Town and Country fitted additional smoke detectors to all the remaining homes.
The section of 14 homes in the five-storey terrace destroyed or badly damaged by fire was rebuilt by another contractor.
In 2016, a report about the fire by specialist surveyors, commissioned by Town and Country, identified potential problems with fire separation between the properties, in particular the cavity barriers.
At the time of the build, there was no statutory requirement for the city council's building control department to inspect or sign off at the stage of cavity walls.
While those regulations remain, the city council says that as a result of the fire, it revisted the role of its building control team and, although not obliged to, practices have now been changed to carry out inspections of cavity walls in any flat developments of timber framed properties.