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Councillors unanimously call for sprinklers at The Tannery in Canterbury - but housing association stands firm

PUBLISHED: 09:21 14 July 2017 | UPDATED: 09:21 14 July 2017

Damage caused by the enormous blaze in Canterbury [photo sent in by Indira Millan]

Damage caused by the enormous blaze in Canterbury [photo sent in by Indira Millan]

Archant

Dozens of properties were destroyed after a blaze ripped through buildings in July 2015

Calls for sprinklers to be fitted as part of the redevelopment of a block of homes devastated by a fire in Canterbury two years ago have been unanimously backed by councillors.

However, bosses at the housing association are standing firm and insist they will not fit the devices, despite efforts to “shame” them into doing so.

Dozens of properties in the city were damaged after a blaze ripped through buildings on the Old Tannery site in July 2015, with many having to be rebuilt over the coming months.

Following the Grenfell Tower inferno in London, many campaigners have called for the widespread introduction of sprinklers in tower blocks, though chiefs insist it is unlikely sprinklers would have made much difference to the spread of the Tannery fire even if they had been fitted, because of the nature of how it spread.

The Tannery also does not come into the category of tower blocks as it below 30 metres high.

Nevertheless, a motion was proposed by Canterbury city councillor Michael Dixey at a full council meeting this week, calling on Town & Country Housing “to fit sprinkler or other suitable fire suppression systems to all the rebuilt flats for the safety of future occupants” - a motion backed by all councillors across the chamber.

Cllr Dixey told us last week: “The council has no powers to insist but I believe the motion will be unanimously supported and we are going to try and shame them into doing it.

“The fire chief said at the time, if it had happened at 2am there almost certainly would have been loss of life.”

Council leader Simon Cook has also urged the government to make it compulsory for timber-framed buildings, such as the Tannery development, to be fitted with sprinklers.

Nevertheless, the housing association insists it will not introduce such a system having undergone thorough consideration.

A spokesperson said: “Before starting the rebuild, Town & Country Housing were required to go through the full planning process.

“The rebuild will fully comply with the current building regulations and we continue to invest into the infrastructure of early fire detection with in the communal areas and individual homes.

“During the planning application sprinkler systems were considered, however as the rebuild is four storeys high and considered a low rise building it was felt that fire detection systems were more than sufficient for this type of building.

“We support the need for sprinkler systems to be reviewed for high rise buildings and have a comprehensive programme of fire safety checks in place for all our properties across Kent & Sussex.

“As part of the rebuild we have worked with fire specialists and BRE (Building Research Establishment) have provided guidance on our fire safety detection.”

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