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21.06.17

Handful of councils move to fit sprinklers on high-rises after Grenfell fire

A handful of local authorities have announced that they will be retrofitting sprinklers in their high-rise tower blocks in the aftermath of the tragic Grenfell Tower fire that took place last week.

Sheffield City Council, Croydon Council and Southampton City Council have all confirmed that they will be rolling out sprinklers as soon as next week, whilst the chief officer of Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service, Dave Curry, has called for “decisive action” to prevent anyone from having to relive the terrifying events that unfolded in Kensington last week.

Croydon confirmed this week that 25 housing blocks in the region will get sprinklers as part of the council’s response to the Grenfell Tower tragedy, with deputy leader Cllr Alison Butler announcing in a cabinet meeting on Monday that the move would apply to all blocks that are at least 10 storeys high.

The decision follows the authority’s review over the weekend of 16 council blocks over six storeys high that have cladding, plus another 23 without cladding. Independent checks confirmed the material used in four of the clad blocks are of good quality and fire retardant.

Butler also confirmed she will be writing to central government “challenging them to give us more support” in plans to make the borough safer.

Sheffield City Council also confirmed that it will be starting a series of meetings with tower blocks residents from today, and will be retrofitting sprinklers in all its 24 blocks. It claimed that it had “always intended” to review sprinklers policy later this year, but will be bringing that commitment forward to “provide extra reassurance”.

But Cllr Jayne Dunn, cabinet minister for neighbourhoods and community safety at the council, emphasised that the local authority has already done “a huge amount of work in recent years” to make sure tower blocks are safe, with fireproof cladding systems that comply with building regulations.

According to the BBC, Southampton City Council has similarly confirmed its intention to fit a number of high-rise blocks from next week, with works starting first at Albion Towers, Sturminster House and Shirley Towers, where two firefighters died in 2010.

The tallest buildings, Canberra Towers, Redbridge Towers and Millbrook Towers, were identified as the next priority out of the authority’s 19 blocks.

Curry, of the Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service, argued that there is still “a huge amount to be learned” about the circumstances and factors that led to the Grenfell Tower fire, with a full investigation now unfolding – but nevertheless emphasised the importance of installing sprinklers in high-rise buildings.

“Following the inquest into Shirley Towers, the Coroner recommended the retrofitting of sprinklers be considered in all high-rise blocks. This was also the case following the Lakanal House fire in London in 2009, in which six people died,” he said.

“Yet disasters such as last week’s are still capable of occurring. Since Shirley Towers, we have campaigned for the installation of sprinklers in high-rise buildings and I believe that, as a country, must now commit to the installation of these life-saving devices in all high-rise blocks. 

“Time and again, sprinklers have been proven to prevent the spread of fire in buildings and drastically reduce the threat to life. It is time for decisive action that will not only allow families to feel safe living in buildings such as these, but to prevent anyone having to relive the terrifying events that unfolded in Grenfell Tower last week.”

The string of announcements this week follows an outpouring of support from councils across the capital earlier this week, with many offering to help the team working on recovery efforts following the Grenfell Tower fire.

London boroughs are now contributing resources in order to ensure a “comprehensive humanitarian assistance” is available, including by helping to manage and staff the Community Assistance Centre, running a helpline, providing mental health and wellbeing support, offering guidance on housing and temporary accommodation, and co-ordinating donations.

“Chief executives and senior officers from Hounslow, the City of London Corporation, Bromley, Ealing, Harrow, Southwark and Westminster have stepped into leadership roles in the immediate aftermath of this response being triggered,” a statement from Hounslow Council read. “Chief executives and key officers‎ from a range of other boroughs will be taking on further leadership roles in the coming days.”

(Top image c. Ik Aldama/DPA/PA Images)

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