The recent changes to the UK's fire regulations should not be blamed for last week's devastating hotel fires in Cornwall and Lincolnshire, according to the Bed and Breakfast Association (BBA). The BBA called for a measured response, insisting that any further tightening of regulations would financially cripple small B&Bs.
David Weston, chairman of the BBA, told Caterer that small B&Bs already face costs as high as £15,000 to make improvements to meet current fire regulations.
He said: "It has put a massive pressure on smaller B&Bs, which were running fire safety provisions more than adequate for a small house."
He added: "We do not want to minimise the importance of fire regulations, but we are asking for moderation. Everybody in the industry will hope the recent fires] do not lead to calls for a tightening of the laws. They do not need tightening they need to be properly administered."
The current fire-safety laws apply to all non-domestic properties in England and Wales, making it the owners' responsibility to ensure the safety of premises.
The old fire certificate system was abolished to streamline legislation, with fire officers and Quality in Tourism assessors now carrying out spot checks for risk assessment.
Weston said that his members had reported discrepancies in the way the regulations were being policed by local authority inspectors, with some being "more zealous than others".
A spokeswoman for the Communities and Local Government department defended the regulations.
She said: "They put the responsibility on the owners of the property. If any establishment was totally compliant with previous regulations, they would not have to make changes to their property."
A British Hospitality Association (BHA) spokesman said the fatality at the Penhallow hotel in Newquay, Cornwall, was the first fire-related death in a UK hotel for 38 years.
"Every BHA member would want to make sure everything could be done to prevent fires," he said. "Obviously, the regulations have had a massive impact and changed the way that fire safety is approached. The industry is still settling down with that. No one can say that these changes had anything to do with the [Cornwall] fire.
"The BHA produces a fire-safety toolkit and many members are grateful for it, but when a tragedy like this occurs it is difficult to know what to provide in terms of support."
•The last deaths in a hotel fire in the UK were at the Rose and Crown hotel in Saffron Walden on Boxing Day 1969, with 11 fatalities. The incident led to the Fire Precautions Act 1971, which introduced the fire certificate to British businesses.
By Christopher Walton
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