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Khan calls for widening of safety regs in wake of timber fires

Foisal uddin shutterstock barking de pass gardens sheppard robson fire june 2019
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Sadiq Khan has called for fire safety regulations to be widened after two blocks of flats with timber balconies were destroyed in recent months

Speaking at a London Assembly meeting on Thursday (12 September), the London mayor pointed to both last week’s fire at the Hamptons estate in Sutton and the Barking Riverside fire in June. 

Khan said both blazes had ‘spread quickly’ but that the buildings were under 18m so would not have been covered by the government’s post-Grenfell fire safety regulations.

‘Imagine if they were care homes,’ Khan said. ’I’m concerned about the lack of government response on this issue.’

During the meeting, Labour assembly member Len Duvall suggested that there should be a much wider set of buildings considered at risk of fire due to their materials, beyond those in the ‘Grenfell list’.

Khan said: ‘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.’

It follows similar concerns raised by the RIBA, which said the fire at the Hamptons showed the government’s ban on combustible materials over 18m ‘may need to be extended’. 

During the Barking fire in June, which destroyed the Sheppard Robson-designed block Samuel Garside House, videos taken by residents showed the timber-clad balconies bursting into flames. 

few weeks later, the government called for building owners to remove combustible materials from balconies on residential buildings.

In its note, the housing ministry said: ‘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.’

Berkeley St James, the developer of the four-storey Hamptons block, has confirmed the balconies were made of wood. The building, built in a New England-inspired style, also had a timber frame and a concrete composite cladding.

The block was built as one of the later phases of a JTP-masterplanned estate called the Hamptons, but the developer has refused to disclose which architect produced the detailed design.

The architect for the phase is listed by a GLA report as Omega Partnership. The practice is now under new ownership and has changed its name to Omega Architects.

Omega Architects said that it could not comment on projects undertaken by previous owners, but that Omega Partnership had not produced any technical drawings for the building.

Investigations remain ongoing over the causes of the fires at both blocks.  

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