Sarah Jones, MP for Croydon Central and Shadow Housing Minister, has joined with Croydon Council today to urge Government action over “essential” sprinkler installations in the borough.
Alison Butler, Deputy Leader of Croydon Council, revealed today the council has now reached the halfway point in its sprinkler programme. Over 740 flats have been successfully retrofitted with sprinkler systems so far as part of an installation programme for the council’s 25 tallest blocks and one eight-storey sheltered housing block.
On a visit to view a block in Addiscombe, Jones and Councillor Butler made a joint call for Government to deliver on their promise to assist councils with the cost of fitting sprinklers following the Grenfell Tower disaster last year. Croydon Council has requested a Government contribution to its sprinkler programme three times, all of which have been rejected.
Jones, as Shadow Housing Minister, has responsibility for scrutinising the Government on building standards and post-Grenfell response. She reveals today that she will be launching a national campaign for Government to deliver funding promised last year to councils across the country. Many councils are still unable to start work to retrofit sprinklers due to lack of funds.
Jones is calling for Government to help fund the retrofitting of sprinklers in all council and housing association tower blocks of at least 30 metres tall. This would bring them in line with the current rules for new buildings, which must have sprinklers built-in if they are 10 storeys or taller. She is also urging councils to match Croydon Council’s additional retrofitting of sprinklers for more vulnerable people, as it is for residents of an eight-storey sheltered block.
On their visit to Fisher Close, Jones and Butler met residents and engineers and viewed the completed sprinkler systems. Elderly residents told of greater security in the knowledge that the spread of any future fire would be contained, allowing them to evacuate safely despite being less mobile.
Following the Grenfell Tower fire, Croydon Council was the first local authority to commit to retrofitting sprinklers in its tallest social tower blocks. Last summer the Housing Secretary told councils it would help fund “whatever measures need to be taken…to make buildings safe.” Since then, no support has been forthcoming for sprinkler works, despite Croydon Council allocating £10m upfront from its housing maintenance budget, meaning long-term upgrades such as bathroom or kitchen replacements would be delayed.
Sarah Jones, MP for Croydon Central and Shadow Housing Minister, said: “The safety of my constituents is my number one priority. I’m so pleased our council has got on with this important job so quickly, despite being left in the lurch by Government over funding.
“It’s unacceptable that more than a year after the Grenfell tragedy, the Government are withholding the support they promised to councils for essential fire safety works.”
Councillor Butler, who is also cabinet member for Homes and Gateway Services, said: “Croydon’s £10m sprinkler programme is making residents in our tallest tower blocks even safer, and we’re over halfway to getting the job done.
“The cost of fire safety upgrades is spiralling for councils nationwide, which is why this intervention from the Shadow Housing Minster is so important, and I look forward to her and colleagues putting pressure on the Government to prevent a funding crisis.”
Notes to editors:
• Croydon Council is installing sprinklers in over 1,250 flats across the borough. These are in the council’s tallest blocks of 10-12 storeys, plus an eight-storey sheltered block.
• A 2013 report released after the Lakanal House fire in south London four years before the Grenfell Tower fire recommended the retrofitting of sprinklers in high-rise buildings.
• Where sprinkler systems have already been fitted, injuries sustained from fires have been cut by approximately 80%.
• London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton has said retrofitting sprinklers “can’t be optional; it can’t be a ‘nice to have’. This is something that must happen.”
• In autumn 2017 it emerged that only 2% of social housing tower blocks had sprinklers installed at the time of the Grenfell Tower fire.
Picture caption: Sarah Jones MP (left) and Councillor Alison Butler (right) with Croydon resident Ivan Thompson, whose flat is one of over 700 homes in the borough so far to have been fitted with fire sprinklers by the council.