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Checking protection from Fire

Like many others, I followed the events at Grenfell Tower last week with growing horror. It seems we’re confronted by such tragedies with increasing frequency. Whether that’s due to social media now bringing us directly into contact with events we’d have once only seen on the evening news, a growing empathy for our fellow humanity or a genuine reflection of increasing risks in modern life doesn’t matter, what matters is people died, others were injured and greater numbers left homeless. 

Many have paid tribute to the bravery of the emergency services, they are right to do so. The bravery of men and women who literally walk through fire to save us cannot be overstated or overpriced. 

Others asked for calm while investigators uncover the causes and contributing factors of the fire in Kensington. Again, they are right to do so, knee-jerk responses rarely work and often make problems worse. 

However, I know many residents are concerned about whether such an event could occur in Crawley and I’d like to re-assure them that no similar council buildings exist in Crawley and the council has robust fire safety processes in place for all of its flats, these will of course be reviewed in the light of investigations at Grenfell Tower. I’ve asked officers to investigate whether there are any non-council buildings at risk and what can be done to improve safety in the wake of the blaze. 

Given that most buildings which have been retrofitted in Crawley recently did so using Permitted Development Rights, essentially opting out of the planning process, I remain uncertain as to the council’s powers for forcing compliance with best safety practice. Also, I continue to wonder if by cutting fire engines in Crawley and across the county West Sussex County Council has left us unable to cope in the event of a major incident. 

Many questions now need answering and responsibility for preventing a future such tragedy rests with many different people at many organisations. However, what I learnt as a boy scout remains true today: ultimately doing what we can to prevent fires is everyone’s responsibility. 

Cllr Peter Lamb

Leader, Crawley Borough Council

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