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‘Fit tower block sprinklers – at any price’

After Grenfell tragedy, high-rise residents in Islington call on the Town Hall to fund safety work

02 February, 2018 — By Emily Finch

Sarah Nash and Michael Cliffe House residents

HIGH-rise residents have told the Town Hall to install sprinklers whatever the cost.

Islington Council has yet to commit to spending up to £100million on fitting the fire safety measures to towers of 10 storeys or more.

Demands for greater protection have grown louder since the Grenfell Tower tragedy last June.

“I don’t care how much it costs, where they get the money from. They need to fit sprinklers otherwise the block isn’t fit for purpose,” said Sarah Nash, a member of the Finsbury Estate Tenants’ and Residents’ Association.

Ms Nash lives on the 17th floor of the 24-storey council-owned block and has been campaigning for better fire safety. She also says the new fire doors in the communal areas promised by the Town Hall have yet to be installed after a six-month wait.

A draft fire safety report commissioned by the council’s housing scrutiny committee in the wake of the devastating fire in west London called for sprinklers to be fitted in all of the borough’s council blocks six storeys in height. A bill somewhere between £43m and £97m would come with adding them to the towers over 10 storeys.

The report, which was put before Islington’s housing scrutiny committee on Tuesday, recommended that “the council review the feasibility of installing sprinklers, the anticipated cost of the works, and model the financial impact of the works on other aspects of the housing service.”

It also called for the council to make representations to the government to fund sprinkler systems.

The Tribune understands the council’s leadership will decide on whether to install sprinklers in the next few months, but is also looking to make savings of £32m this year to balance their budget.

“I hope central government gives the council money but the council can’t expect people to live in unsafe buildings,” said Ms Nash.

She added: “We spoke to a few people on the estate who say the council should put other projects on hold to fit in sprinklers. I don’t mind if cyclical works on the estate go on hold to make it firesafe. We’re being treated like second-class citizens.”

Ms Nash is also pressing the council on new fire doors, which slow down the spread of any blaze, allowing more time for people to escape burning buildings.

Labour housing chief Councillor Diarmaid Ward said the council were “addressing this as a priority” in a letter published in the Tribune last July.

He said this week: “I understand the process to install fire doors is ongoing and I will help in any way I can. The best thing I can do is to meet Ms Nash.”

Reacting to the fire safety report, Cllr Ward said the council were “actively looking to follow the recommenda­tions of the report”.

He added: “Fire safety will always be our top priority and the executive will be responding very soon.

“The government doesn’t make it easy for us, 70 per cent of our core grant has been cut and we are in a very difficult position. Representations to central government [to fund the sprinklers] are ongoing.”


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