Flats' fire sprinklers probe

The flats at Scholes
The flats at Scholes

Council chiefs have commissioned a study into the possible introduction of sprinklers at its high rises in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster.


The news came as the fire chief in charge of tackling the London blaze, which claimed at least 80 lives, said that the tragedy should prompt the mandatory installation of such life-saving systems.

But the reason this hasn’t routinely happened before is because it can be extremely expensive to retrofit sprinklers into buildings and with local authorities facing continued huge budget cuts, finding the money will not be easy.

Just one in 50 of the UK’s social housing tower blocks currently has a full sprinkler system, according to a new BBC investigation released on the eve of the Grenfell disaster public inquiry.

And among those without one are the high rise flats at Scholes.

In 2007, sprinklers were made compulsory in new-build high rises over 30 metres tall in England, but there is no requirement for retro-fitting to older properties.

Following the death of six people in the Lakanal House fire in south London in 2009, a coroner recommended the Government should encourage housing providers to retrofit sprinkler systems.

The issue is likely to be a focus of the Grenfell inquiry, which holds its first public hearing today.

London Fire Brigade commissioner Dany Cotton told the BBC: "I think Grenfell should be a turning point. I support retrofitting - for me where you can save one life then it’s worth doing.

"This can’t be optional, it can’t be a ‘nice to have’, this is something that must happen. If that isn’t one of the recommendations then I will be so very disappointed."

Marie Bintley, Wigan Council’s assistant director for growth and housing, said: "We do not have any sprinklers currently in our high rise blocks but have recently commissioned a report on the feasibility of installing sprinklers.

"Once we have received the report, which is due in the near future, we will be considering its findings and the most appropriate way forward on this matter."

A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: "Public safety is paramount. Following the Grenfell Tower tragedy, the Government established a comprehensive building safety programme to ensure a fire like this can never happen again.

"This included commissioning an independent review of building regulations and fire safety. We will consider this issue in light of the recommendations of this review and the findings of the public inquiry."