The insurance industry has said it will launch a probe into the safety of timber-framed buildings, as concern grows over the cost of fire-related claims

The news comes two weeks after a half-built timber-frame development in Peckham, south London, burned to the ground and severely damaged neighbouring properties.

In a report published yesterday called Tackling Fire: a Call for Action, the Association of British Insurers said large, fire-related claims rose 16% between 2007 and 2008 and are now running at £1.5bn a year, the highest level for 20 years.

It identified timber-frame construction, arson and a move towards open-plan buildings as particular areas of concern and said it would like sprinklers fitted to all new buildings.

Its investigation could also demand action such as stipulating how timber-frame building was managed or forcing contractors to attend safety courses to avoid higher premiums.

It will review the case for sprinklers and investigate the fire resistance of timber-framed buildings before deciding on further action.