Fury over sprinkler plan at Wigan high-rise flats

Derby House, Scholes, one of the blocks under consideration for sprinklers
Derby House, Scholes, one of the blocks under consideration for sprinklers

A high-rise tenant representative has said he is ‘appalled’ the council has spent more than £45k on designs for an ‘unnecessary’ sprinkler system.

The town hall announced in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy it would install the new safety measures in Wigan’s seven blocks at a cost of around £2m.

A majority of tenants to respond to a recent consultation said they did not want them and the plans could now be shelved.

According to a council finance report, £47.6k has already been spent on an ‘initial design’, including ‘technical analysis and feasibility’ work, plus £805 to kit out a show flat as part of the feedback exercise.

The emergence of these costs has reaffirmed the belief held by some tenants that the council’s initial announcement had been a ‘knee-jerk reaction’, a representative has said.

Phil Harris, from the town’s Hi-Risers group, said it makes sense that a feasibility study was required but criticised the costs.

He said: “I’m appalled at the amount because once again it suggests they were happy that this was a done deal.

“I do see that before any studies had taken place we may have had questions about the sprinklers (as part of the consultation) they wouldn’t have been able to answer.

“Yes, they had to know if it was feasible, but that does seem to be a lot of money.”

An officer’s report on the results of the sprinkler consultation will recommend that council bosses should defer any decision until after the Grenfell Inquiry is completed.

That decision ‘could potentially be some time away’, a letter sent to residents said.

The report will be discussed by cabinet members after the local elections.

When the plans were announced in 2017, council bosses said although none of Wigan’s high-rise blocks had the same cladding as Grenfell, the sprinklers would ‘put minds at rest’ and the move was backed by the GM Fire and Rescue Service.

However, tenants said the blocks had an excellent fire safety record and the sprinklers would potentially pose a risk to property because the blocks already suffer from water ingress problems.

The council had expressed disappointment that only 35 per cent of tenants had responded to the consultation but said they would listen to the feedback.

A financial report detailing capital funds for 2018/19 states £70k was initially forecast on ‘multi-storey flats – sprinklers’ but the actual spend for the year was £47.6k.

Marie Bintley, assistant director for growth and housing, said: “We would like to thank all tenants who engaged with the consultation, took the time to visit the show flat and submit their views regarding the proposed sprinkler project.

“All of the responses have now been collated and will be put into a report.

“It will recommend that as a result of residents’ responses we should wait until more information is available, including any government recommendations or change in legislation, before making any final decision on the installation of sprinklers.

“If the report is agreed, a final decision will be deferred until some point in the future which could potentially be some time away.”