Lakanal House – lest we forget
Eight years ago, six people lost their lives in a fire at the Lakanal House block of flats in Camberwell, South London; families were devastated and a nation was shocked. This year, finally, the investigation work into the event has concluded with Southwark council, the landlord of Lakanal House, being told that it must pay a £270,000 fine, plus £300,000 costs.
The case is a lawsuit against the council responsible for providing accommodation at the 1960s tower block, and is separate from the inquest which concluded some years ago. It condemned the council for several specific failings:
- Failure to make a proper fire risk assessment
- Allowing breaches of fire-resistant structures between staircases
- A lack of compartmentation in false ceiling structures of common corridors
- Not fitting intumescent strips and smoke seals on fire doors
The council had already pleaded guilty and expressed “sincere regret” over the failings as it admitted that the building’s fire safety standards were not up to modern standards and that risk assessments and appropriate remedial works had not been undertaken.
“Three children and three adults passed away in this fire, while emergency services were convinced that the building’s structure and fire protection systems would keep them safe,” comments Bob Gate, UK Business Development and Marketing Manager at Brakel Airvent. “It’s a heart rending tragedy and the most stern reminder that the work done by the people in our industry really matters.
“If there is some good to have come out of the tragedy it’s in the form of improvements to how fire safety is viewed in large buildings since the incident. People thought they were prepared, but the reality is that a fire is fast-moving, confusing and messy, and we as an industry must be at 100% of our game, 100% of the time to minimise the harm whenever a fire starts.”
Judge Jeffrey Pegden, overseeing the case which involved prosecution under the RRO, said: “In this case there was a major fire at Lakanal House on 3 July 2009, involving the tragic loss of six lives – including three children. But the sentence of this court of course can never reflect such a terrible tragedy.
“Indeed, the prosecution don’t allege that these breaches were causative of the fatalities in the fire, or indeed of the fire itself. This case is concerned with the risk existing prior to those events.”