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Fire report slams Decent Homes Programme

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Social housing renovated under the Decent Homes Programme could still have inadequate fire protection measures, a report into the recent fire in Camberwell has found

Sir Ken Knight, the government’s chief fire and rescue adviser, called for the weighting given to fire safety under the programme to be reviewed so that it requires hard-wired smoke detectors on every floor and fire-resistant doors and smoke ventilation.

Lakanal House, the estate in which six people died in a fire in July, had been refurbished by Southwark LBC under the programme.

The programme requires all dwellings to be free from “the most significant risks that can result in death or major injury and health issues”.

But according to Sir Ken’s report into the fire for communities secretary John Denham: “the current guidance for this process does not appear to provide adequate advice on the fire safety protective measures required in dwellings”.

With a police investigation ongoing, the report does not seek to assign blame for the cause of the fire, nor the response of the emergency services.

However, it claimed that a building such as Lakanal House, if built today, would require the installation of a fire suppression system such as a sprinkler.

And if the fire had occurred at night, “there is a concern the means of escape within common areas may not be provided with sufficient illumination or directional escape signage for residents” the report found.

Cllr Paul Noblet, Southwark’s executive member for regeneration said: “This is an opportunity for everyone involved in social housing nationally, to look again at how we can make high rise buildings safer.

“Sir Ken raises important questions on how social housing is funded, the guidance for occupants of tall buildings, how tenants can be innovatively engaged in fire safety and the management of social housing.”

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