Council denies fire safety ‘U-turn’ over sprinklers

Council denies fire safety ‘U-turn’ over sprinklers

ENFIELD COUNCIL has been forced to deny that it has dropped a ‘key pledge’ to improve fire safety measures in its high rise buildings, specifically fitting sprinkler systems.

Enfield Independent reported on the claims by the council’s Conservative leader – with the council run by Labour – that there had been a ‘U-turn’ on plans to fit sprinklers in all of the borough’s high rise tower blocks. The council had pledged ahead of winning the local elections last year to ‘install sprinklers in all of our 54 high-rise council housing blocks’ and invest £8m in safety changes.

Conservative leader Joanne Laban claimed the ‘U-turn’ on the plans had come after a housing officer – in an email – had said that the council was considering sprinkler installation ‘on a risk-case basis’, and that a ‘full review of building safety’ was being undertaken. In addition, the email stated that a consultant had been hired to carry out a ‘feasibility study’ into fitting sheltered homes with sprinklers.

Ms Laban said: ‘They have been in power for a year and have not put any sprinkler systems in any tower blocks. They are saying they will put them in sheltered accommodation, but they are doing a feasibility study on whether they are needed in tower blocks. It is a big U-turn on what they promised, considering they were saying “we will put them in every tower block”.’

In response, a council spokesperson said that there had been ‘no U-turn on the council’s intention to retrofit sprinklers in all our tower blocks, which full council agreed “should be funded by Government” in a motion passed in November 2017’, and added: ‘Despite central Government’s failure so far to provide this additional funding, Enfield Council continues to deliver on this commitment as our residents’ safety remains our number one priority.’

The spokesperson also stated: ‘Our in-depth review and outline programme for all our housing blocks for the next three to five years will be completed in the autumn. Fire safety is a top priority of the council’s, which is why we created the officer position of resident safety director for housing and regeneration earlier this year. Alongside other boroughs, we continue to call on the Government to do the right thing and provide funding for the retro-fitting of sprinklers to all our high-rise buildings.’

The news outlet added that the council has ‘already fitted’ what it called ‘portable’ sprinklers in a range of vulnerable people’s homes, while retrofitting of systems in sheltered housing blocks ‘is also underway’. One block, Brittany House, is due to have sprinklers installed later this year, while the council is carrying out feasibility studies on another nine sites ‘which, subject to the report’s findings, will be programmed for installation next year’.