Quiz over £2m sprinkler plan for Wigan high-rises

The high-rise flats in Scholes, which would be one location for the proposed sprinkler system
The high-rise flats in Scholes, which would be one location for the proposed sprinkler system
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Proposals to install sprinklers in Wigan’s high-rise blocks are not the only answer to improve fire safety, councillors have been told.

Town hall bosses have already committed in principle to "retrofit" new systems – at an estimated cost of £2m – and a "feasibility analysis" has taken place.

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But ahead of a consultation with residents, members of the council’s housing advisory panel were urged to consider other options.

Tenant representative Christopher Brady said sprinkler systems could pose problems for flats that have previously suffered with water ingress issues.

He said: “I’m not saying that sprinklers shouldn’t be installed, anything that makes those blocks safer is great. However, we have had so many problems with water ingress in those flats.”

He also voiced concerns about the risk of Legionnaire’s disease, if the system was not regularly flushed, and called for robust safety checks to be enforced.

Marie Bintley, assistant director for growth and housing, and Prof Kate Ardern, director for public health, said the "genuine" consultation includes a "whole package of fire safety measures".

Councillors heard the context for the improvement works was "dynamic" given the ongoing Grenfell Inquiry - though none of the borough’s seven high-rises had aluminium composite cladding found at the stricken tower.

Coun John Harding, a former fire officer, agreed sprinkler systems "should not be discounted" but "there are many other areas that can be looked at".

Council officer Lee Payne said in the event of a fire, the amount of water deposited by sprinklers would be less, but equally effective, than if firefighters used hose reels to douse the flames.

Coun Michael Winstanley said he was concerned the sprinklers were a "done deal", which would be installed whether residents actually wanted them or not.

Coun Terry Halliwell, panel chairman, said the cabinet was committed in principle to installing sprinklers to "put minds at rest" following the Grenfell tragedy, adding that if the new system saved just one life, then it would be worth the cost.