Council backs mandatory high rise sprinkler retrofitting

Council backs mandatory high rise sprinkler retrofitting

STOCKTON COUNCIL undertook a probe into its tower blocks’ fire safety post Grenfell, with the review urging the installation of sprinklers and watermist systems in all of the high rises.

Gazette Live reported on the probe’s review, which ‘urged’ that sprinkler and watermist systems be installed in ‘all’ high rise residential buildings in the area, alongside removal combustible cladding from one tower – Kennedy Gardens in Billingham – which has already been completed. Currently, not all of the high rises have sprinkler systems, with current legislation not deeming them ‘mandatory’, and a council meeting saw councillors renew calls for retrofitting.

Councillor Bill Woodhead called for systems to be ‘written into law’, adding: ‘The fire authority has been pushing for sprinkler systems all the time – I’ve raised it quite a few times. Wherever there is a sprinkler system, there hasn’t been a life lost. They’re marvellous, they’ve improved on them and they don’t just flood the whole area. I think it’s essential that we have these - especially when a life hasn’t been lost, it speaks for itself. I, personally, would make it law.’

Previous meetings had heard that two other towers – Hanover Point and Rialto Court – did not have sprinklers, with the owners of both stating that ‘up-to-date fire assessments and fire prevention plans are in place’. Chairman Derrick Brown said that the council’s select committee would support the sprinkler move, while the council also heard that social housing provider Thirteen had ‘vowed’ to install sprinklers or watermist systems in all of its high rises.

This work was ‘already underway’ at Prior Court in the borough, while information on designs for Kennedy Gardens, Nolan House and Hume House was due to be submitted. The committee was also awaiting the outcome of the Grenfell Tower inquiry to see if it needed to respond to those findings, and agreed to wait until the conclusion of the inquiry before ending the fire safety review.

Evaline Cunningham, ward member for Billingham Central, said she was ‘absolutely delighted’ that the Prior Court building had seen sprinklers fitted, after two prior fires there, and added: ‘Originally they did say they were going to put them in communal rooms but they’re going in apartments which is good news.’

In turn, a Thirteen spokeswoman stated: ‘As an extra fire safety measure we’ve committed to fitting fire suppression systems in our high rise blocks, where this is feasible. We’ve already installed sprinklers to a high rise in Hartlepool and work will begin shortly on two blocks in Billingham. Once these blocks are complete we’ll look at rolling out sprinklers in our remaining high rise blocks.’