Sprinklers to be installed at council tower blocks

Report by James Cracknell

Credit Brandon Leon/Wikimedia Commons

Credit Brandon Leon/Wikimedia Commons

Sprinklers look set to be installed at tower blocks across the borough following a fire safety review by Waltham Forest Council.

The council estimates that installing sprinklers at council-owned blocks of six storeys or higher, as well as at hostels and in sheltered housing, would cost the authority £5million.

The move was agreed by the Labour-run council’s cabinet at a town hall meeting this afternoon (Wednesday), five months after scores died in the Grenfell Tower disaster in west London.

Michelle Edwards, a council tenant who has been demanding fire safety improvements at the 21-storey Northwood Tower in Walthamstow, told the Echo: “This is a welcome first step to avoid any repeat of the Grenfell Tower tragedy. Given that there have been two minor fires at Northwood since Grenfell, sprinklers are very much needed here.”

Northwood Tower

Northwood Tower in Walthamstow, the tallest council block in the borough

It is expected that the Grenfell Tower Inquiry which began in September will result in all councils being ordered to retrofit sprinklers, but none are currently installed at council-owned tower blocks in Waltham Forest. Since Grenfell several other councils in London have pledged to install sprinklers as a fire prevention method in tower blocks.

In the report recommending this happen in Waltham Forest, the council’s senior project manager Maureen McEleney said: “It is proposed to commence a programme of retrofitting sprinklers and to set aside budget provision of £500,000 per year from 2018/19 to enable a programme to be implemented.

“Any programme will be developed on a risk-based approach taking into account the vulnerability of the residents, height of block, existing design features, as well as existing fire management arrangements. Deliverability as well as other planned investment/initiatives will also need to be taken into account.”

It also states that leaseholders, who occupy around 30 percent of homes within council-owned blocks, would likely be required to pay for sprinklers in their properties.

The sprinklers are now set to be installed at 21 council tower blocks that are six storeys or taller, plus 14 sheltered blocks, eleven hostels, and 16 lodges at Montault Road, Chingford.