Waltham Forest Council is to fit sprinklers in all 61 of its high-priority housing blocks, starting with three sheltered housing buildings.
Safety in all the council’s accommodation blocks is regularly reviewed to ensure they are fully safe and secure. None of Waltham Forest’s blocks have any of the cladding involved in the Grenfell Tower fire but, in light of the tragedy, London’s Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton has now recommended all existing high-rise blocks should have sprinklers fitted as well as new buildings.
The council’s cabinet agreed unanimously this work should begin immediately. It will be in addition to any safety improvements proposed following regular Fire Risk Assessments and other checks.
Cllr Khevyn Limbajee, Cabinet Member for Housing, said:
“The safety of our residents is the council’s number one priority and the cabinet voted to install sprinklers in these blocks unanimously.
We will work with the Fire Brigade to ensure installation work begins as soon as possible, consulting with those affected to ensure everyone understands what is being done and why.”
The work to establish what is needed and how the installations will be carried out has already begun at three sheltered accommodation blocks – Longfield House, Holland House and Turners Court. Developed with the London Fire Brigade, the proposals will require close consultation with residents so everyone appreciates what is planned and why. It is intended that the fitting work will take place in the New Year.
Waltham Forest Council has received a one-off grant of £356,000 from the London Fire Brigade to help fund this work. An additional £5 million of council funds will pay for sprinkler installation at the remaining 58 high priority blocks, with another £200,000 ring-fenced for further improvement work identified in the recent Fire Risk Assessment. While Waltham Forest is committed to fund this from existing budgets, together with other councils, it will look to Central Government to provide additional resources to meet the costs.
The Brigade’s Assistant Commissioner for Fire Safety, Dan Daly, said:
“Sprinklers are the only system which detects a fire, suppresses a fire and raises the alarm and we believe they are vitally important as part of a package of fire safety measures, particularly in buildings where there are vulnerable people such as care-homes and schools.
“We have long been campaigning about the benefits of sprinklers, which save lives and property and also improve firefighter safety.
“Waltham Forest Council proves that it’s possible to retrofit sprinklers and more boroughs and housing owners should follow their lead to protect their most vulnerable residents, including those with mobility issues.”