High number of ‘older’ tenants leads Hackney Council to install sprinklers in 114 flats at Queensbridge Road tower block
PUBLISHED: 16:59 29 January 2018 | UPDATED: 19:26 30 January 2018
Sprinklers will be installed in all 114 flats at a 19-storey Queensbridge Road tower block on the recommendation of fire safety experts – because of the high number of “older tenants”.
Hackney Council ordered more than 1,800 fire risk assessments (FRAs) in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire that killed 71 people in June.
Those tests found some 3,000 jobs needed doing urgently, most of which involved removing obstructions and checking fire doors. But today town hall chiefs delivered letters to everyone living at 355 Queensbridge Road – all council tenants – telling them the London Fire Brigade (LFB) has recommended the installation of sprinkler systems in each flat.
The block is one of 181 in Hackney standing at five storeys or more and is managed by the Tower Tenants Management Organisation.
The letter, seen by the Gazette, was written by director of housing services Michael Scorer and makes clear there is no immediate fire safety risk.
It reads: “The London Fire Brigade have recommended the installation of sprinklers to provide additional fire safety measures due to the large number of older residents who live in your block.”
It also makes clear the tenants will not have to pay for work, and the town hall this afternoon told the Gazette it did not yet know how much it would cost.
Christine Field, 64, who has lived here 14 years, lives on the top floor – but hadn’t given that “a lot of thought” until Grenfell.
She’s now “ecstatic” about the sprinklers and thinks they should have been put in when the building was built.
“I thought I was dreaming when I was seeing Grenfell - to go up like it did was so upsetting,” she said. “Of course you do end up putting yourself in that picture being up the top, and the way my health is going I don’t think I could get down the stairs.”
June Cleevely, who lives on the 15th floor is also pleased.
“It was horrifying watching Grenfell and thinking of the implications,” she said.
“Disabled people and old people can’t actually use the stairs which is the only form of escape. It’s a good idea and quite probably the council should do it in all of their very tall blocks.”
The sprinklers will be installed in the living areas of each home, but not the bathrooms. The work is being carried out by Wates. It will start on Monday and take three days for each flat, taking a total of 16 weeks.
Last week housing chief Cllr Clayeon McKenzie spoke at the full council meeting about the issue, saying the town hall was committed to installing sprinklers in tower blocks if recommended by the London Fire Brigade and the council’s independent assessor.
His remarks echoed those of mayor Phil Glanville, who in September responded to calls for all tower blocks to be fitted with sprinklers by saying it would cost £20million and, without funding from the government, would mean “not doing other things”.
The council has reassured tenants the sprinklers will be discreet, and will only be activated at high temperatures – like that of a fire.
Only fire crews can turn them off, but in the event they are set off by mistake each floor will have an isolation valve so that floor’s can be turned off alone.