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Blaze flat and law loophole

PUBLISHED: 21:18 31 August 2001 | UPDATED: 10:29 03 March 2010

THE early stages of an investigation into the house where Suffolk teenagers Will Stokes and Rob Giles died indicate the owner did not have permission to rent the property as bedsits.

THE early stages of an investigation into the house where Suffolk teenagers Will Stokes and Rob Giles died indicate the owner did not have permission to rent the property as bedsits.

However a spokesman for Suffolk Coastal District Council today said that although its records show permission to turn the house in Felixstowe into six flats was denied in 1986 there was nothing to stop the owner renting out rooms to lodgers.

Although firefighters said there was a working smoke detector within 2ft of the door of the room where the young men died the loophole means there is no legal requirement for the proprietor of a family home to install a fire escape, fire resistant doors, emergency lighting or smoke detectors.

As the scale of Wednesday's tragedy continues to sink in Rob Giles, mother, Margaret, has paid a moving tribute to her son on his band Boot50's website alongside many other mourners.

Mrs Giles message reads: "Thank you to everybody who has paid tribute to my wonderful son - your messages are a great comfort to me.

"Rob, I love you so much and am so proud of you. My life will be empty without you."

The website – www.boot50.com – also informs people of The Evening Star memorial appeal for Rob, 18, and 19-year-old Will which has received a boost today with businesses across Suffolk pledging donations.

Preliminary investigations by Suffolk Coastal have discovered the house in Holland was a bed and breakfast accommodation in the early 1980s.

In 1984 the proprietor at that time applied for planning permission to turn it into six bedsits. Permission was rejected on the basis the property would have needed to have greater safety procedures in the event of a fire.

In December 1986 a further application was put in to the council to turn it into a family home. This was granted.

However a loophole exists which means that if the owner wishes to rent out rooms in a family home to lodgers he or she is not compelled to take additional fire precautions the landlord of a bedsit would have to undertake.

A spokesman for Suffolk Coastal today said that they were trying to establish whether the house was being used as bedsits or just a shared house.

The council also is still trying to contact Richard Bryant, who is registered as the owner of the house, and revealed that at least two prospective purchasers have been interested in the property over the past 12 months.

He said: "If it was being used as a house of multiple residence then planning permission should have been granted – however it was turned down in 1984.

"During that process for planning permission, one of the particular things that may have been required is a fire escape.

"Over the last year or so we have had a couple of land searches made of the property by people interested in buying it and at the time they were given the planning permission of the property"

Meanwhile offers of support continue to flood in for the families of two teenagers.

Patrick Levy, owner of the Ramsholt Arms in Shottisham, where Will used to work, is collecting money to pay a special tribute to the teenager. The remainder of the donations will go to The Evening Star memorial appeal for the bereaved families which has been given a start of £500 by the newspaper.

Will had worked at the pub for four months and Mr Levy and his staff were devastated at the news of his death.

Mr Levy said: "We have clubbed together and raised £200 which we want to buy a bench with in William's memory. The rest of the money will then be given to the fund."

Felixstowe businessman Charles Manning has also agreed to give a £100 donation to help start the ball rolling for The Star's fund.

And newsagent Pauline Sfendilis, from E and P News in Manning Road, close to where the boys lived, has also said that she is happy to contribute.

The Dukes Head pub in Coddenham, in Rob's home village has also pledged to raise money for the appeal.

N If you want to contribute to the fund then send a cheque to Geraldine Thompson, Editor's Secretary, Fire Appeal, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN.

Cheques should be made payable to The Evening Star Fire Appeal and the money will then be placed in a special account.

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