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Fire inspection failure highlighted in Lakanal House inquest verdict

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Southwark Council’s failure to carry out effective fire inspections was partly to blame for a fire that caused six deaths, an inquest has concluded

The inquest into the blaze at Lakanal House in Camberwell in July 2009 reached a narrative verdict last week.

This said the council had failed to carry out a proper fire inspection over three years of being legally responsibile for the building. The inquest heard that a proper inspection would have picked up work from the 1980s that removed vital fire-stopping material between flats and communal corridors.

There were significant failings in the compartmentation of the building, with stairs failing to meet the requirements of building regulations and replacement cladding panels found not to be Class 0.  

The coroner wrote to communities secretary Eric Pickles requesting Part B of the building regulations be simplified to make it clear and accessible to a wide range of construction professionals.

It also been recommended the government produce national guidance on fire safety for residents of high rise buildings.

Ian Wingfield, deputy leader and cabinet member for housing at Southwark Council, said: ‘The Lakanal fire on 3 July 2009 was a dreadful tragedy and one of the darkest days in Southwark’s recent history.

‘The council has put fire safety and improvements to our housing stock at the top of our priorities.

‘First and foremost was the creation of a dedicated housing department with clear accountability. In addition, over £48 million has been allocated to the council’s fire risk assessment programme and associated fire safety works across the borough. In particular, all similar properties have an up-to-date fire risk assessment that is available to the public, and we are spending £326m making all our council homes warm, dry and safe.’

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