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Calls for Govt to ban timber frame housing

MATERIALS - Brick body claims wood houses are more vulnerable to re than other homes

BRICK and block producers have called on the Government to rethink its housing policy in the wake of a fire that ripped through a partially complete student accommodation block in Colindale, north London.

They labelled moves to build high-density housing using timber framed construction methods 'reckless' and called for a ban on subsidies for timber framed developments.

Martin Clarke, chairman of industry body the Modern Masonry Alliance, called for the building of multistorey timber framed houses to be halted.

He said: 'We have been warning about the fire risk for some time and have been urging Government to rethink its policy for this method of construction as a provision for high density housing.'

Mr Clarke also claimed that timber framed housing methods could expose athletes to unnecessary risk if the Olympic Village were to be built using wood and called for Government funded bodies English Partnerships and the Housing Corporation to stop subsidising timber framed developments.

He said: 'It seems reckless for the taxpayer to promote timber framed construction after the Colindale incident. A new worry is that we are proposing to house some of the world's greatest athletes in the Olympic Village, which could well be timber frame.'

Mr Clarke also called for a ban on timber cladding on low rise timber framed buildings.

But timber frame producers claimed houses made of the material were not any more vulnerable to fire than those built using other methods.

They pointed out that all buildings are vulnerable to fire before they are complete and cited the concrete cored Windsor Tower in Madrid as an example. It was undergoing refurbishment when fire ripped through it in February 2005, forcing its eventual demolition.

Phil Key, chairman of industry representatives the UK Timber Frame Association, said: 'A fire like that at Colindale is very unusual, but all new buildings have areas of vulnerability before they are complete.

'All construction methods in the UK meet the same building regulations on fire.'