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We are looking into fitting sprinklers at Islington tower blocks

28 July, 2017

Housing chief Diarmaid Ward

• SAFETY on our estates is our top priority, and we will do whatever it takes to keep our residents safe (Tower fire risks: we still don’t feel safe in our flats, July 14).

At Michael Cliffe House, we have carried out work to convert two dry risers to wet risers so water is more easily available to firefighters. We have worked closely with London Fire Brigade and other agencies, including Building Control, to make sure the work meets their requirements.

We agree that fire doors at Michael Cliffe House need replacing, and are addressing this as a priority. We are talking to one of our contractors about this work now, and will keep Finsbury Estate Tenants’ and Residents’ Association (FETRA) and residents updated.

We are actively looking into whether it is possible to retrofit sprinklers in tower blocks, the cost of fitting sprinklers and how effective they would be in improving safety. Current building regulations do not require the retrofitting of sprinklers during refurbishment or other building works. Regardless, we are actively looking into this.

On the issue of fire seals and fire stopping on the new hot water system at Michael Cliffe House, it is important to note that the communal heating works and associated fire stopping are still taking place on-site. We are talking to Building Control and the contractor to ensure the effectiveness of fire stopping, including inspections of the fire stopping that is installed. We’re also looking at improved fire safety relating to the cabling housed in metallic boxing on the outside of the building.

We welcome Professor Arnold Dix’s report on fire safety at Michael Cliffe House and have written to FETRA to explain how we are addressing points he raised. It is worth highlighting that Prof Dix’s report concludes that “this building is inherently safe and could well serve for many more years as safe housing if managed, upgraded and maintained correctly in the future”. We are committed to improving fire safety, as outlined above.

All of our buildings, including Michael Cliffe House, have an up-to-date fire risk assessment. Where appropriate, we are carrying out joint inspections of our buildings with London Fire Brigade and will follow all recommendations it makes.

We very much understand the concerns and fears of residents on our estates – at Michael Cliffe House and in other buildings – and will listen to any issues they raise.

Labour executive member for housing and development, Islington Council


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