Two days after the catastrophic Grenfell Tower fire in Kensington, Hackney Council was still unable to confirm which of its residential tower blocks are fitted with sprinkler systems.
By law, buildings constructed since 2007 and that are taller than 30 metres are required to have sprinkler systems fitted, whilst retrofitting older blocks is recommended best practice rather than a legal requirement.
Following the 2009 Lakanal House fire in which six people died, a coroner’s report issued in 2013 recommended the installation of sprinklers in all high-rise tower blocks.
However, an investigation in 2015 by Housing Insider revealed that only 13 per cent of stock-holding local authorities in England had complied with that advice.
The Chief Fire Officer’s Association says there is a strong business case for retrofitting sprinkler systems in older high-rises, citing an estimated cost of £1,150 per flat.
The report notes: “The cost of sprinklers per block or per flat will compare very favourably with other fire protection methods which might otherwise be required to provide acceptable levels of fire safety for older blocks, especially for blocks such as Lakanal House, which only have a single staircase”.
The council installed a “pioneering” sprinkler system in 258 homes in Frampton Park Estate in 2015.
Fire risk concerns were first raised by residents on the estate six years previously.
At that time, the then cabinet member for housing and Philip Glanville noted the importance of sprinkler systems, saying that “Hackney Homes places the risk of fire and the safety and welfare of all residents as highest priority. Hackney is once again at the forefront of resident safety with this fire sprinkler system, providing residents with an extra layer of safety in case the worst should happen.”
Since then, £750,000 was allocated to fire risk in the 2016/2017 capital works budget, rising to £1,000,000 in the current 2017/2018 budget.
Meanwhile, the Conservative leader of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea has faced a backlash after claiming on Newsnight that sprinklers were not fitted during the £10million refurbishment of the 24-storey building because residents did not want the disruption.
— Ian Katz (@iankatz1000) June 15, 2017