Monday, 5 October 2009

Lambeth slammed for fire safety record


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Lambeth slammed for fire safety record

Monday, 05 October 2009

Lakanal House

Lakanal House

LONDON'S fire authority has criticised a town hall for leaving almost every tower block in its borough without a fire safety check.

Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act this week revealed that Lambeth council had only carried out the assessments on two of its 112 residential buildings over six storeys high.

By comparison, all of Lewisham’s 76 blocks had been checked since 2008, as had all of Wandsworth’s 194.

Southwark refused to reveal how many it had carried out, saying to do so may prejudice the investigation into the Camberwell Fire that claimed the lives of six people on July 3.

The blaze at the 14-storey Lakanal House caused the death of three-week-old Michelle Udoaka, her mum Helen, Catherine Hickman, Dayana Francisquini and her children, Felipe, three and Thais, six.

An inquest to be led by Mr Justice Thayne Forbes will seek to find out how the fire spread and to assess the response of the emergency services.

The extent of Lambeth’s failure to ensure its own blocks are fire-safe came to light following an investigation by the BBC.

Under the Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Act Order 2005, councils have a legal responsibility to carry out risk assessments on their buildings.

The fire authority is responsible for “policing” this obligation.

This week, the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA), which runs the fire brigade, told the South London Press that it was not required to check whether assessments have been carried out, nor hold copies of those that had.

It refused to confirm whether it had served enforcement notices on Lambeth.

A spokesman said: “The organisation who controls a building, whether the owner, landlord or manager, must complete a risk assessment and act on its findings – this is not an optional task, it is a clear legal requirement.

“It is disappointing that three years after the fire safety order came into force there are still organisations responsible for premises that have not completed and acted on a fire risk assessment.”

Steve Rice, who lives in Brittany Point, Kennington, told the South London Press: “It’s Lambeth’s responsibility but no one will lose their job over this.

“No one will be held accountable, because the council is refusing to take responsibility.”

The council said the fire risk assessments would be carried out by March and that the council had visited more than 14,000 homes since 2007 carrying out risk assessments, installing smoke alarms and giving out fire safety advice.

Email: sam.masters@slp.co.uk

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