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Inquest into fire at Lakanal House begins

An inquest has begun this week into the fatal fire at the 14-storey Lakanal House council housing block, south London

Six people died when the fire broke out on the ninth floor of the Camberwell block of flats three years ago.

A faulty television was blamed for the cause of the fire but the inquest will examine whether the layout of the block and subsequent refurbishments could be to blame for its rapid spread.

The 92 flats in Lakanal House are arranged in an interlocking ‘scissor’ split level design, like many other 1960s blocks.

Speaking to the AJ back in 2009, Brian Coleman, chairman of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, said: ‘In blocks such as this one you should be safe for an hour before fire jumps from floor to floor. That wasn’t the case in these circumstances and I think we need to know while the fire spread so quickly.’

Changes in fire safety legislation and building regulations could result from the inquest. This could have further implications for other tower blocks of a similar forma and age.

Local MP for Camberwell and Peckham and deputy leader of the Labour party, Harriet Harman said the inquest needed to establish ‘why the fire spread when the building’s design was for fires to be contained in flats’.

Concern has been raised about the design of the neighbouring Marie Curie block, after a fire started there in 2010. A fire risk assessment carried out there found that standards of compartmentation and the protection of escape routes were inadequate and needed to be improved. Southwark Council has now completed a £1.4million refurbishment programme for Marie Curie House which, it says, has addressed all the actions raised by the fire risk assessments.

The inquest which is being held at Lambeth Assembly Hall is expected to continue until the end of March.

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