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Tannery fire in Canterbury sparks council call for mandatory sprinklers

A local authority is to lobby for new laws to make sprinkler systems mandatory in new timber-framed housing developments.

Canterbury City Council's move follows shock revelations in the Kentish Gazette newspaper over the city's devastating Tannery blaze.

Despite 15 homes being destroyed in just a few hours, no reports or recommendations for safety improvements have resulted.

The issue was raised at the council's policy and resources committee meeting, where members agreed that building regulations should be reviewed.

The authority is now vowing to put pressure on central government to make sprinklers a requirement of all new multi-storey timber-framed building schemes. 

Members have also agreed that planners will strongly recommend new developments in the district are fitted with the life-saving devices.

The devastation of the Tannery estate fire
The devastation of the Tannery estate fire

Council leader Simon Cook said: "The Tannery fire last year caused huge damage and some residents lost their homes, so the committee fully understood why people want to see action being taken.

"Although we are not able to change the law ourselves, we can make our views known and we’ll be doing that strongly on behalf of local people."

Miraculously no one was killed when fire ripped through the Tannery development in June last year.

Firefighters at the scene expressed shock at how quickly the inferno spread.

Fifteen homes were completely destroyed and a further 29 badly damaged.

Yet, more than six months on, no specific investigations, reports or recommendations have been produced by the authority in the wake of the disaster.

The Gazette had asked Kent Fire and Rescue Service and the city council - responsible for enforcing building control - what was being done to stop this happening again.

KFRS said its only investigation was into the cause which could not be conclusively established because of the scale of the damage - although it had earlier been suggested it could have started in a boiler cupboard.

The city council had replied that its only responsibility was to inspect the building during construction to ensure the methods and material complied with national law, which they did.

But the policy and resources committee has decided to alter its stance.

Mr Cook said: "We will be contacting other councils to ask them to join us in lobbying central government to change the building regulations.

"We will also be sure to let developers of multi-storey timber framed buildings in our district know that we would strongly recommend sprinklers be used in these sorts of developments."

Rachel Branson,for Town and Country Housing which owns the fire damaged Tannery flats, said: "Our insurers are still in the process of conducting the investigation, however given the size and the severity of the incident they are unable to release any information until it is complete."

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