Hackney MP Diane Abbott has called for fire sprinklers to be “immediately” retro-fitted in all council tower blocks in the wake of the Grenfell disaster.
In an article for PoliticsHome, the Shadow Home Secretary said it is clear the Lakanal coroner’s 2013 recommendation for sprinklers in every block has not been implemented, with Hackney “no exception”.
The coroner’s report followed the 2009 Lakanal House blaze which left six people dead.
Abbott is demanding action, saying Grenfell survivors and residents in large buildings across the country “deserve better”. She wrote: “They need reassurance – and installing sprinklers would do just that.”
The Hackney Citizen launched a petition last month calling on Mayor Philip Glanville to “take immediate steps to install sprinkler systems” in council blocks over 30 metres tall. It has so far been signed by over 1,600 people.
Glanville revealed at the time that just two of Hackney’s 181 mid- to high-rise blocks have fire sprinklers.
Abbott told the Citizen: “Every measure must be taken to protect members of the public against fires like that of Grenfell Tower. It is clear that the recommendations from the coroner’s report into the Lakanal House fire in 2009 have not been implemented, with Hackney being no exception.
“We do not need to wait for the results of an inquiry for the government to insist that all similar buildings are retro-fitted with sprinklers.”
In her article, published last Friday, Abbott wrote: “Expert opinion suggests that an entire retro-fit of sprinklers in a tower block like Grenfell would cost just £200,000. That’s just a fraction of the overall cost of the refurbishment that did take place, and which may have been a factor in the disaster.”
The Hackney North MP, who recently returned to Labour’s shadow cabinet following a short break due to illness, went on to say: “Buildings with sprinklers are much better at actually containing fires.
“Lives are saved, building damage is minimised, residents are not displaced to the same extent, or sometimes not at all. Their treasured possessions are not all destroyed. Insurers and others take account of this and premiums fall.
“This government claims to know the price of everything it is opposed to funding. But it knows the value of nothing when it comes to the benefits of public spending.
“This cynicism must end. The survivors of Grenfell and all the residents of large buildings deserve better. Retro-fitting sprinklers saves lives, saves homes and saves money. It is essential this government gets on and does it.”
Brent Council announced today that it is to spend £10 million on fire safety improvements for its 37 high-rise tower blocks, including installing sprinklers, smoke detectors and fire alarms.
Council leader Muhammed Butt said: “Grenfell changed everything. When it comes to fire safety, ‘good enough’ is no longer good enough.
“Here in Brent we have 37 high rise blocks and they’re all fire risk compliant. But we also have lots of people asking whether those rules and regulations are actually up to standard, and who can blame them? So we’ve found the money to go above and beyond what’s required, to ensure that residents are safe – and feel safe – in their homes.
“Obviously, eight years of austerity have not made this easy, and no doubt some will find a way to criticise our decision. But we can’t afford to wait any longer for Government to take the lead, which is why we’re committing £10m to this work, right now. And if we get the Government to step up and put its money where its mouth is then all the better.”
You can sign the Hackney Citizen’s petition here.
Update: this article was amended at 17:32 on Tuesday 11 July 2017 to include the news that Brent Council is to spend £10 million on fire safety improvements, including sprinklers, for its high-rise tower blocks. A quote from council leader Muhammed Butt is also included./ 11 July, 2017