Council wants to install sprinklers in high-rises

Derby House, one of seven high-rise blocks in Scholes Village which Wigan Council wants to fit with sprinklers
Derby House, one of seven high-rise blocks in Scholes Village which Wigan Council wants to fit with sprinklers

Wigan Council wants to allay any remaining fears high-rise flat tenants have following the Grenfell Tower disaster by installing sprinklers.

The local authority’s cabinet meeting yesterday approved producing an urgent report looking into fitting the equipment, which is expected to cost around £2m.

Grenfell Tower

Grenfell Tower

Coun Terry Halliwell, lead member for housing, proposed the scheme after town hall figures showed the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) is in a very health position and has enough money in its balance to carry out the work.

The idea was enthusiastically supported by Wigan Council leader Lord Peter Smith and his deputy leader Coun David Molyneux, who said it was crucial to put residents’ minds at rest following the devastating inferno in London earlier this year.

The cabinet also attacked the Government, saying the council would not wait for ministers to give out the money promised for retrospectively fitting sprinklers in tower blocks but would try to press ahead anyway.

The meeting heard a report should now be produced on installing sprinklers as soon as possible.

Coun Halliwell said: “The issues of Grenfell are complex and the public inquiry which has opened could be lengthy, but I feel it appropriate to reassure residents living in our tower blocks.

“We should no longer be prepared to wait for the Government to provide grants to retrofit sprinklers. I’m of the opinion we have got the necessary funds and we have a moral obligation to put residents’ minds at rest.

“I’m asking for a report to cover the procurement costs and a timescale. We should just get on with it.”

The plans cover the seven tower blocks in Scholes Village: Crompton House, Derby House, Woodcock House, Mannion House, Brook House, Boyswell House and Douglas House.

Coun Halliwell also reiterated that tests done on the cladding on Wigan borough’s flats had proved they were not the same as those used at Grenfell and did not pose a safety risk.

Coun Halliwell gave his backing to installing sprinklers after reading reports from the Greater Manchester High Rise Task Force and looking at the comments of Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service on the issue.

The idea was given backing from the cabinet meeting, with senior politicians drawing comparisons with Westminster’s inaction after Grenfell and Wigan Council’s approach.

Deputy leader Coun David Molyneux said: “Members whose wards cover high-rise flats were extremely concerned after Grenfell, as were tenants.

“A lot was done to allay their fears and we’ve made sure the cladding and the work carried out was of a standard not similar to Grenfell.

“There’s an opportunity to move forward and look positively at sprinkler systems and I think it’s most important.

“I will be very political and say that while the Government is dilly-dallying we should be proactive. Other authorities up and down the country will be doing the same thing.

“Unlike the Government, we accept our responsibilities where necessary and get on with the work that needs to be done.”

Police in the capital have now officially revealed that 71 people died in the Grenfell Tower blaze in June.

The Metropolitan Police say they believe everyone in the tower has now been identified and accounted for following months of painstaking work sifting through the debris and following up hundreds of reports of people missing.

The fire service in London is among those who have called for all high-rise flats to have sprinklers in the aftermath of the tragedy.