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How the fire certificate system works in practice

Known as self-regulation, it was brought in during the 1990s. It works as follows:

- Plans for a development, which include structural details of the building and how it will meet fire regulations, are submitted to the planning authority.

•Permission, on the basis of the submitted plans, is granted.

- Work begins, carried out by subcontractors.

- On completion of the work, the subcontractors certify that they have carried out the work in accordance with the regulations laid down by the planning authority.

- With all the work completed, the architect inspects the building and scrutinises the certificates filled out by the subcontractors and/or developer.

- On the basis of what he or she sees around the building, and the documentation, the architect issues an 'opinion of compliance' which states that the overall project is okay. This compliance certificate is needed for conveyancing.

- That certificate is taken as assuring prospective buyers, lenders, insurers etc that the building is sound.

Here's how the Priory Hall flaws were uncovered:

- Defects began to surface after residents moved in. They started asking questions. They called in council fire officers.

- The council carried out structural reports. The lack of a proper 'firewall' in the walls was discovered.

- A firewall is a bit like a sheet of insulation foam which restricts fire spreading from one apartment to another. It does not require major structural work to put in place.

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