No sprinklers in ‘dozens’ of Brighton council blocks
A FREEDOM of information request revealed that 44 council owned housing blocks in Brighton and Hove four storeys or higher do not have sprinklers fitted, despite some having had systems approved.
The Argus reported on the results of its own investigation into the situation, stating that 44 blocks including Essex Place and St James’s House – two high rises that had sprinkler system plans approved in 2019 – have not had sprinklers fitted. Those two buildings in particular had seen Brighton and Hove City Council and East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service (ESFRS) pledge up to £300,000 in funding, with a council spokesman responding that fitting was delayed due to ‘feedback from residents’.
The news outlet added that the lack of sprinklers goes ‘against the advice’ of the National Fire Chiefs Council, which has called for all residential buildings with four floors or more to have sprinkler systems fitted after last year’s student block fire in Bolton. Buildings in the city without sprinklers are ‘clustered in the same areas’, with NFCC chair Roy Wilsher stating that sprinklers ‘should be mandatory in all new residential buildings from 11 metres, or four floors and above, at a minimum’.
He added that the NFCC ‘has previously championed the requirement for sprinklers in high-rise block of flats above 18 metres. With the threshold for sprinklers now being considered separately from a number of closely related safety measures, we believe the threshold should be lowered to 11 metres’.
In response, a spokeswoman for ESFRS said that sprinklers ‘reduce death and injury from fire’ and risks to firefighters, adding that ‘it has been proven that sprinklers and other forms of automatic fire suppression systems can be effective in the rapid suppression of fires. There are many considerations that take place when identifying the suitability of a premises to ensure that the whole building fire strategy is addressed.
‘[ESFRS] has and continues to support and offer advice to Brighton and Hove City Council with any decision to retro fit sprinkler systems’. A council spokesman meanwhile responded that it wanted to install sprinklers in all blocks, but that ‘some tenants’ attitudes meant that was not always possible’, though the council would consider NFCC recommendations. He added: ‘Our priority for sprinkler installations is our high-rise blocks. We would like to install them over our whole high-rise estate.
‘However, not all tenants are in favour of sprinklers. So any such programme would be subject to successful consultation with residents. The delay to installing sprinklers at St James’s House and Essex Place is because we revised our original proposals in response to feedback we had from our residents. We work very closely with [ESFRS] on fire safety and keep our policies on sprinklers under permanent review.’
Finally, a spokesman for the East Sussex Fire Brigades Union said ‘firefighters on the frontline understand the importance of sprinkler systems in assisting to prevent the rapid growth of fires. In June of this year we called on the Government to retrofit sprinklers in high rise buildings as part of our “Grenfell Never Again” campaign. However, sprinkler systems should not be viewed as a “golden bullet”. There is no replacement to a properly funded and resourced fire and rescue service’.