Installing sprinklers in Hackney tower blocks could cost council £20m and would mean ‘not doing other things’

Mayor of Hackney, Cllr Philip Glanville, says City Hall's plans for tackling the housing crisis coul

Mayor of Hackney, Cllr Philip Glanville, says City Hall's plans for tackling the housing crisis could be good news for Hackney. Picture: Gary Manhine/Hackney Council - Credit: Supplied by Hackney Council

Fitting Hackney’s tower blocks with sprinklers as recommended by the Fire Brigade could cost up to £20m, and would mean “not doing other things”, according to Mayor Phil Glanville.

Grenfell Tower

Grenfell Tower - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton renewed her call for residential high-rise buildings to be retrofitted with sprinklers, ahead of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry launch today, saying they were the “only fire safety system that detects a fire, suppresses a fire and raises the alarm”.

She accused builders, developers, local authorities and private housing providers of “ignoring the clear benefits of sprinklers for years”.

Mayor Glanville said he welcomed her intervention and found it “positive the fire brigade are coming to a clear view leading into the Inquiry”.

But he said the council’s stance remained unchanged, and it would only retrofit sprinklers where advice or evidence from specialists supported the move.

He said: “There is a resourcing question and that has to be addressed by the inquiry and central government.

“We can find the resources to do this work but it would mean not doing other things.”

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Following the fatal 2009 Lakanal House fire in Southwark, Hackney Council tried installing sprinklers inside two blocks of similar design. But the council had no right to insist leaseholders had sprinklers installed in their homes, and despite even offering to install them free of charge, the take up was low.

Mayor Glanville said they would need something from the Fire Brigade or the Inquiry giving them authority to install them. “It’s not a reason for not doing it but it complicates the time taken and the cost.

“There was a long ongoing dialogue around the funding and access, and some leaseholders not wanting it at all.

“We did quite a lot of work to explain how the system works. There was a lot of myth busting around what triggers them and how they operate. There’s that fear from what people have seen in the movies that someone can pull a lever and suddenly all the sprinklers in the building can turn on. You need a heat source near a sprinkler head to make it operate. You can’t just have someone in the corridor getting a cigarette lighted setting off the sprinklers in the building, but those were the kind of conversations we were having.”