Bury St Edmunds: Call is made to ensure restaurants in historic buildings in town are as fire safe as possible

A CALL is being made for fire safety checks at restaurants in historic buildings in Bury St Edmunds to try and safeguard against another devastating blaze.

A fire which began in the basement of Cupola House - home to Strada restaurant - in The Traverse, Bury St Edmunds, on June 16 wreaked devastation on the Grade I-Listed building.

Work is currently under way to see what can be saved, or used as a template, with an aim to reinstate the 17th-Century property as far as possible.

Martin Lightfoot, chairman of the Suffolk Building Preservation Trust, said he would be approaching St Edmundsbury Borough Council about trying to ensure historic buildings in the town which are used as a commercial restaurant are as safe as possible from fire.

He said: “It would be nice to have recommendations for old buildings in the town. We have had the fire and damage at Cupola House and we are now looking to rebuild it. Let’s make sure if we have a fire in Abbeygate Street we don’t lose half of Abbeygate Street. That’s my concern really.”

He said Abbeygate Street had a number of restaurants in timber-framed buildings.

“It’s a medieval town centre with timber-framed buildings. We have go to ensure as far as possible the other buildings are as safe as we can make them without fire spreading between buildings.”

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An investigation is currently under way which will look at the cause of the fire and why it became established so quickly.

The blaze, which the fire service was alerted to at about 8.50pm, spread throughout the building leading to major structural collapse.

A crane with a cage is being used at the site to dismantle the top of the building from above.

Mr Lightfoot said: “I think realistically if you have got a commercial kitchen it is going to have fires in it at some time. I would have thought it was likely to happen so it’s got to be preventable to prevent it spreading to the rest of the building.”

He added: “A fire in the kitchen should not lead to a building burning down really.”

Cupola House had been made with timber and using the lath and plaster construction method.

The fire service had confirmed the restaurant had no sprinkler system.

Mr Lightfoot commended the positive response from the fire service and the work of the engineers in retaining the facade of the building.

Speaking on Wednesday, John Ette, inspector of ancient monuments and team leader in the East of England for English Heritage, said it was “very distressing” to see the damage to Cupola House.

He said: “We are trying to save what’s left there.”

Simon Pott, a well-known figure in Bury, said he was keen to see Cupola House rebuilt. “It can be done. It’s a question of will and obviously money.”

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