Great. Three years after the fire, the Tannery is a building site again

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Remedial work has started at the Old Tannery

Well, it’s started. Banging, shouting, drilling, the infuriating beep, beep, beep of a reversing lorry delivering building material to right outside our homes.

We call the Old Tannery Development off the Rheims Way in Canterbury our home, but to all intents and purposes it is also a building site.

You might have thought that a development which is only 10 years old would be the last place where urgent upgrade work would be required.

But it is – and that for one big reason. I moved into the Tannery in March of 2015. On July 4 of that year, the block opposite me was destroyed in the now infamous fire which incinerated almost all of the curved structure.

The people who lived there lost everything and it is a wonder no one was hurt.

A view of Tannery Square

Nevertheless, it made everyone in the city sit up suddenly ask themselves how a blaze attended to promptly by the fire brigade had been so devastating in so short a space of time.

The answer, we learned, lay in the construction of the Creine Mill Lane North block, which, like others in the development, comprised timber frames and plaster board walls.

Developer Bellway Homes this week conceded “the quality of some of the construction work does not meet its high standards”.

Translation: it was done on the cheap.

The upshot is that now Bellway is moving people out of their homes for up to two months while it carries out remedial work to fireproof the other buildings.

Bellway claims only to have come to the realisation of the buildings’ design as a result of the 2015 blaze.

The reality is it knew what it was doing when it built the Tannery. These materials weren’t used by accident. The design specifications weren’t the product of bad luck. They were planned.

It is evident now that the original construction was of a poor quality, dangerous and – ultimately for Bellway – extra costly.

As house building intensifies across the Canterbury district, we can only hope that developers avoid the mistakes Bellway has made.

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