Mayor of London Calls for ‘Widening’ of Fire Safety Regulations

Mayor of London calls for ‘widening’ of fire safety regulations
SADIQ KHAN called for fire safety regulations to be ‘widened’ after the two recent flat block fires involving timber balconies.

Architects Journal reported on Mr Khan’s speech at a London Assembly meeting earlier this month, at which he pointed to the Barking fire in June and the recent fire in Sutton as examples of where fire safety regulations should be ‘widened’. He said that both fires had ‘spread quickly’, and because they were under 18m in height they ‘would not have been covered by the government’s post-Grenfell fire safety regulations’.

Similar concerns were said to have been raised by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), which had said that the fire in Sutton showed the combustible materials ban ‘may need to be extended’. He stated: ‘Imagine if they were care homes. I’m concerned about the lack of government response on this issue. Put aside ACM cladding, put aside 18m. Even buildings without ACM and less than 18m, hand on heart, no one can say they’re safe.’

At the same meeting, Labour assembly member Len Duvall suggested ‘a much wider set of buildings [should be] considered at risk of fire’ due to their materials, beyond those in the ‘Grenfell list’. The news outlet added that after the Barking fire in June, the government called on building owners to remove combustible materials from balconies on residential buildings.

Its advisory note stated: ‘The removal and replacement of any combustible material used in balcony construction is the clearest way to prevent external fire spread from balconies and therefore to meet the intention of Building Regulation requirements, and this should occur as soon as practical.’

The Sutton fire at the Hamptons block, developed by Berkeley St James, was confirmed by the company as having wooden balconies and a timber frame, alongside concrete composited cladding. After the Barking fire in June, which destroyed 20 flats, residents in the same estate claimed prior concerns over fire safety ‘have been ignored’. Itsaw one six storey block catch fire, with 10 other homes damaged, and two treated for smoke inhalation; 100 firefighters and 15 appliances attended.
An investigation of other blocks by LBC found ‘faulty fire doors, broken smoke alarms and combustible cladding’, with developer Bellway having been ‘in talks’ with the government on building regulations and fire protection laws, adding that fire protection measures inside the building ‘received all regulatory approvals’ and ‘ensured occupants were safely evacuated’.

Residents claimed fire safety concerns ‘were downplayed’ by Bellway a month prior to the fire, with Peter Mason, chair of the Barking Reach residents’ association, stating that in early May he contacted Bellway to ‘ask for the fire risk to be investigated’ after BBC Watchdog’s investigation into other Bellway Homes properties. According to later reports, Bellway had carried out ‘remedial fire safety work’ a few weeks before the fire, and also dropped its stay put policy.

More recently, residents of a neighbouring block raised concerns over fire risk assessments ‘as they face having to move back’ in, with many believing the block is ‘unsafe’, and outlining issues with fire safety and structural reports. Most recently in August, social housing residents of the affected Samuel Garside House have complained that they are ‘being forced back’ into the fire hit property ‘before safety assessments’ and ‘despite safety fears’.

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