Council's sprinkler installation policy endorsed by cross party group of MPs

Published: Friday 27th July 18

Wandsworth Council’s policy on sprinklers has been endorsed by a cross-party group of MPs.

The Housing, Communities and Local Government (HCLG) select committee, which is looking at how to improve the safety of residential tower blocks, concluded that sprinklers should be should be retro-fitted to existing high-rise residential buildings to provide an extra layer of safety for residents.

This follows the council’s announcement last year that it would be retro-fitting sprinklers in 99 high rise blocks across the borough. Since 2007 national building regulations have required all new-build high rise blocks of ten storeys of more to have sprinkler systems and Wandsworth is making sure of all of its equivalent tower blocks are bought up to that standard.

Cllr Kim Caddy, cabinet member for housing, said: “Following the Grenfell tragedy, Wandsworth moved quickly to bring in a series of measures that would improve safety across the borough.

“This included retro-fitting sprinklers in all our tower blocks that are ten storeys or above to bring them up to current new build standards and improve fire safety in around 6,400 homes.

“We made this decision based on advice from the London Fire Brigade and a range of professional expert bodies and it’s good to see that the HCLG committee, which has also been talking to industry representatives and fire safety experts, has come to the same conclusions.”

The council has proactively referred the matter to a First Tier property tribunal to enable leaseholders to raise any concerns they may have and to establish if such works accord with lease provisions.

The HCLG select committee was set up to examine the findings made as part of the Hackitt review into the Grenfell fire where 72 people died on June 14, 2017.

It has also advised that the Government should make funding available to fit sprinklers into council and housing association-owned residential buildings above 18 metres.

The news also comes after a recently installed  sprinkler system in Nightingale Square, Balham put out a chip pan fire, with fortunately no injury to the young mother and her one-year-old child that were living there and with minimal fire or water damage to the property. 

The fire in the kitchen activated a sprinkler head which extinguished the fire by the time the London Fire Brigade arrived.

Councillor Caddy added: “This was a timely and poignant example of just how effective sprinklers are. We have seen similar chip fan fires in other properties across the borough cause terrible damage and I am so pleased that in this instance the sprinkler put out the fire before it could take hold.”

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Recent comments

I would argue that fitting sprinkler systems is not necessary, provided the fire strategy for the building has not been compromised as it was at Grenfell. As built each flat forms a separate fire compartment and fire should not spread beyond the flat. You also have to consider that sprinklers over a certain height require to be fed from tanks and pumps, I would ask where these would be fitted in existing buildings. If it is decided to go ahead with sprinklers I would suggest you look at fitting a water mist system which requires less room, less heads and less maintenance (I have no involvement or commercial interest in any water mist company).
Colin Turner

3 August 2018

I don't think that sprinklers would not have prevented Grenfell - the fire was on the outside of the building. Individual residents can buy and put sprinklers and smoke alarms up in their own properties easily. But I see no point in them being put up in the 'public areas' as all the scallywags will set them off for fun.

30 July 2018

We have a tendency to go overboard with safety provision when its not required. The Grenfell incident only came about due to the fitting of external flammable cladding material. This issue is now being address with exterior cladding being replaced. Any sprinkler systems that need to be installed should cover escape routes from flats along communal corridors and stairwells to ground floor to provide a safe route for tenants going out and for fire officers coming in. Systems within flats will also be subject to abuse from either accidental or deliberate misuse. (e.g. drug/alcohol fuelled parties that get out of hand) This in turn will cause misery for tenants living below who will suffer from water damage. Who then pays for that?
John Whitney

30 July 2018

Sprinklers are not a cost effective way of improving fire safety and the cost of thousands of pounds per leaseholder is disproportionate.

27 July 2018

What about privately owned properties in these buildings?

27 July 2018