Parliament to receive £118m fire safety upgrades
THE HOUSES of Parliament will receive a £118m upgrade including watermist systems, despite rejecting council requests for funding fire safety works.
Inside Housing reported that the government had budgeted the money to pay for the 'eight-year' programme of fire safety improvements across its parliamentary estate, with 'high pressure water mist systems' to be installed alongside sprinklers. This comes despite its repeated response to councils that it would not fund fire safety works for tower blocks across the country, with a series of council officials responding to the news.
The news outlet added that this also follows Housing Minister Alok Sharma telling Nottingham City Coiuncil that sprinklers were 'additional not essential' fire safety upgrades, while London Fire Brigade commissioner Dany Cotton recently stated that all council tower blocks should have sprinkler fitted, noting that 'this can't be optional; it can't be a “nice to have”. This is something that must happen'.
Jane Urquhart, portfolio holder for housing at Nottingham City Council, commented: 'The government has found the resources necessary to install sprinklers in the Houses of Parliament as a sensible fire safety precaution for the safety of those who work and visit there. It does seem strange that, at the same time, the housing minister deems sprinklers in social housing tower blocks not to be essential to ensure the safety of our tenants.'
Croydon Council, which has also requested £10m to retrofit sprinklers in 26 towers, 'has so far received no response', with Alison Butler, cabinet member for housing at the council, stating: 'Parliament is a historic building and it is a place where people work, but protecting people’s lives and their homes should be a higher priority. Grenfell changed everything and we have got to look at fire safety in a different way now – there can’t be any bigger priority than making people safe.'
She added that the council would 'still seek to pay for the sprinklers without government support', but warned that this would 'put pressure on other areas of investment'. Among the full list of safety improvements relating to fire in Parliament would be replacing automatic fire detection and voice alarm systems, emergency lighting, dampers, fire signage, compartmentation, fire doors and the water systems, 'all paid for by the taxpayer'.
A spokesperson for the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) responded: 'Building owners are responsible for funding measures designed to make a building safe. We’ve been clear that where a local authority has concerns about funding essential fire safety measures, they should contact DCLG as soon as possible to discuss their position.'