Leeds high rise sprinkler retrofitting begins

Leeds high rise sprinkler retrofitting begins

SPRINKLERS ARE now being retrofitted in 37 high rise blocks in the city, with the city council funding the installations as part of new fire safety measures for the ‘higher risk’ buildings.

Last June, Leeds City Council stated that ‘adverse’ financial implications would arise after the government rejected its request for funding for the sprinkler retrofitting, after it had identified around £32m would be needed to retrofit at all 116 social and sheltered housing blocks, with the government declining to assist because it deems sprinklers ‘non-essential’.

Earlier in 2018, the council reported it would press on with fitting sprinklers at eight ‘priority’ blocks at a cost of £1.2m, hiring extra staff to undertake the work. It had estimated in the same report that it could cost £22m to retrofit all council blocks with sprinklers, with these ‘likely’ to be put out to tender in the next 18 months.

In total, 37 blocks are considered of ‘higher risk’ due to their height, number of staircases, whether they are sheltered homes, findings of fire risk assessments and previous history of fires. The last five years has seen around £17m spent on fire safety works in social housing high rises and sheltered properties under an agreement with West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service WYFRS), with fire safety doors installed alongside fire stopping and compartmentation works.

A programme to install sprinklers was also introduced, and was ‘reviewed and strengthened’ to include retrofitting for more blocks ‘than initially planned’. In November 2017, the council approved a £10m spend on the 37 ‘higher-risk’ blocks, with £2.2m spent in the last year on fire safety, and a further £22m required to ‘fund the installation of sprinkler systems to all 116’ of its blocks.

Yorkshire Post has now reported that the retrofitting at the 37 high rises has begun, with the first fitting taking place at Sherburn Court in Swarcliffe. WYFRS crews were invited to ‘familiarise themselves’ with the system at the building, which has over 80 flats on 13 floors. Debra Coupar, Leeds City Council’s executive member for communities, said: ‘Safety for tenants at our high-rise blocks remains an absolutely priority for Leeds City Council.

‘While none of our blocks were identified at risk in the same way as Grenfell, we have set out through our housing investment strategy a significant programme of work to provide additional safety measures where appropriate, as an extra reassurance to tenants. This includes moving forward with the installation of sprinklers in 37 of our blocks, and it is fantastic that this work has now been completed at Sherburn Court.’

Andrew Farrell, WYFRS’ Leeds district commander, added: ‘Our partnership with Leeds City Council continues to grow and the provision of sprinklers in a large number of high-rise blocks within the city shows a determination to keep both residents and our firefighters safe. Sprinklers will provide our firefighters with alternative means of dealing with a fire in this type of building and help them to resolve incidents quickly and effectively. Local fire crews will be attending all high rise blocks as soon as the sprinklers are fitted to understand the new systems in place.’