Barking fire: Housing minister talks to residents

Housing minister James Brokenshire. Picture: PA

Housing minister James Brokenshire. Picture: PA - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Housing secretary James Brokenshire has visited the site of the Barking fire that destroyed 20 homes and the rest centre used to aid residents.

Firefighters deal with a blaze at a block of flats in Barking. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Firefighters deal with a blaze at a block of flats in Barking. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Mr Brokenshire spoke to people who lived in Samuel Garside House, in De Pass Gardens, as well as officials from the fire brigade and the council about the relief effort.

Asked how anyone living in a building with any kind of cladding could sleep safely, the minster said: "I'm asking lots of questions and have commissioned work to get to the bottom of precisely what happened here - on the cause, but also the speed of the spread of the fire, as that is something that has been particularly disturbing.

He added that he was at the rest centre to learn from residents what they need to feel safe enough to return to their homes after Sunday's fire, which saw 20 homes destroyed and another 10 damaged.

On whether government would force companies to take dangerous cladding down, he said it would depend on expert advice about the materials used and the cause of the blaze.

"I don't want to jump to conclusions at this point in time, but it is important that that assessment is done quickly so that appropriate steps and action can be taken by the building owners, who have the primary responsibility to make sure that people in those buildings are safe."

The leader of the council, Darren Rodwell, welcomed the visit, but said that he wants to see the authority get more power to force up building standards.

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"I will continue to work with the minister and the mayor of London to make sure that we have legislation that is fit for purpose to make sure that people can sleep soundly at night and know that their house isn't a danger to them or their community," he said.

The MP for Barking Dame Margaret Hodge has also visited the "truly shocking" site of the fire and said that there were serious questions to be answered.

"Speaking to the fire brigade and residents nearby, and hearing how quickly and effectively they responded, made clear to me how fortunate we are that there were no fatalities or serious injuries," she said.

Allegedly faulty fire alarms and sprinklers, as well as the wood exterior, were among her concerns.

Dame Margaret will be meeting with Mr Brokenshire to question him on changes to fire regulations to prevent any more fires like the one that happened in Barking.

"Residents need certainty and the buck must stop with somebody," she added. "There are far too many different stakeholders involved and residents have a right to hold somebody directly to account."