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Birmingham city council to fit sprinklers in tower blocks

Birmingham city council to fit sprinklers in tower blocks

🕔22.Jun 2017

Birmingham City Council’s residential tower blocks are to be fitted with sprinkler systems and other fire suppression measures following the Grenfell Tower tragedy in London. 

Council leader John Clancy has confirmed that the council will “as a matter of urgency” look at the 213 blocks of flats it owns to assess what work needs to be undertaken to reassure tenants that their homes are safe.

Cllr Clancy said he was prepared to find up to an estimated £31 million to retro-fit measures which reduce the risk of fire and help tenants to feel safer.

The leader’s statement follows a series of council checks since the Grenfell Tower tragedy. The council says all council blocks have a current fire safety certificate and each are checked on daily basis. The local authority has published technical information on building materials used on its residential buildings.

Earlier today, Prime Minister Theresa May gave a statement to Parliament on the tragedy and the latest developments. So far, 79 people are thought to have died.

The Government says tests are being carried out on about 600 high rises across England to see if cladding fitted to the outside is safe. Seven residential high-rise buildings in four local authority areas have so far been found to be covered in combustible cladding following safety tests.  Camden Council has announced it is removing cladding from five tower blocks.

The chief executive of Kensington and Chelsea council Nicholas Holgate has resigned , reportedly in response to pressure from Sajid Javid, the Communities Secretary. The PM has refused to back calls for Nicholas Paget-Brown, the council’s Conservative leader to resign.

Mrs May told the Commons that she did not believe retrofitting sprinklers in tower blocks was always necessary.

….in not all cases will it be the case that the retrofitting of sprinklers is actually going to be the thing that makes the difference.

Birmingham’s council leader says he wants Britain’s biggest councils to lobby the Government to help pay for fire suppression measures in all of the country’s local authority residential tower blocks and has written to the leaders of Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield councils asking for their support.

The nine cities plus Birmingham form the Core Cities group, representing the largest councils in the UK and are home to scores of tower blocks.

Cllr Clancy said he hoped Core Cities and other local government organisations would put pressure on the Government to come forward with a financial package to help councils meet investment in fire suppression measures such as the cost of fitting sprinklers.

Cllr Clancy says he intends to prioritise council spending on a rolling programme to install sprinklers, regardless of whether the Government makes a financial contribution.

One idea under consideration by the council in the event Government funding is not forthcoming is to pay for the tower block fire prevention strategy by selling assets owned by the council.

Cllr Clancy said:

The dreadful events in London have understandably triggered an outburst of public anger and demands that councils need to do far more to protect tenants living in high-rise blocks.

I became council leader pledging that every child, every citizen and every place matters. Now is the time to underline that promise by recognising that as a council we have a duty to provide the best possible fire protection for our tenants, and we will do whatever it takes to keep people safe.

But the cost of doing this for all local authorities with tower blocks is certain to be substantial and beyond the means of austerity-hit councils to afford in a timely fashion.

The Government should accept this is a national emergency that fully justifies establishing a fund to allow councils to fit sprinkler systems as a matter of urgency.

If the Government fails to respond appropriately, I believe our tenants would expect work on less important building projects to be delayed so that we can make sure our tower blocks are safer places to live in.

It should also be recognised that a city-wide programme to fit fire-suppression measures will generate significant employment opportunities for Birmingham, creating skilled jobs and apprenticeships and underpinning the council’s commitment to inclusive economic growth.

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