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Call for more powers as council reveals £100k cost of Barking fire response

PUBLISHED: 17:40 29 October 2019 | UPDATED: 17:40 29 October 2019

Samuel Garside House covered in scaffolding. Picture: Luke Acton.

Samuel Garside House covered in scaffolding. Picture: Luke Acton.

Archant

The council has spent more than £100,000 on its response to a fire in Barking.

A Barking and Dagenham spokesman told the Post the local authority spent the money supporting neighbours after the blaze on June 9 at Samuel Garside House in De Pass Gardens, Barking.

The figure includes payment for an independent report, but doesn't include the 40 council staff working on the response full-time in the two weeks immediately after the fire.

Council leader, Darren Rodwell, has called for local authorities to be given more power to regulate private house building.

Cllr Rodwell suggested in a statement made on October 25 that he would like powers to order destructive testing and regulate the materials used in buildings under 18 meters.

And he questioned wider housing policy, including whether profits are being put before people in low-rise housing.

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The council leader went into more detail about the inspector's findings saying that during the inspection in August, 21 fire doors weren't self-closing, possibly letting flames spread if they weren't closed manually.

Some had other problems on top of that, according to the October 18 summary report.

HomeGround, which represents the building's owners, said at the time no-one was living in the affected blocks and the problem doors were only temporary after the originals were damaged by fire crews entering the building. It added new fire doors are now in place.

As well as more council powers, Cllr Rodwell wants to put the onus on companies to make sure their buildings are safe throughout their life span: "The private sector shouldn't be allowed to get away with treating the management of post-fire incidents as someone else's problem.

"Developers may have passed building control and gained planning consent, but they are the ones making the profit."

A spokesman for Bellway, which built the homes, said the building's fire safety measures "ensured the safe evacuation of residents" and said the company commissioned its own independent fire expert to review Samuel Garside House. It's working with residents, the council and the building owner to "come up with a permanent design solution", he added.

A planning application to replace the wood balconies is with the council, but it is said there currently isn't enough information to move it forward.

The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government has been contacted for comment.

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