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Sprinklers recommended for all 126 of Islington tower blocks – but work would cost tens of millions

PUBLISHED: 11:00 23 January 2018 | UPDATED: 11:23 24 January 2018

Braithwaite House off Old Street is one of Islington's 126 tower blocks. Last year, cladding was urgently stripped from the building after it emerged it was similar to that used on Grenfell Tower. Picture: Tom Horton

Braithwaite House off Old Street is one of Islington's 126 tower blocks. Last year, cladding was urgently stripped from the building after it emerged it was similar to that used on Grenfell Tower. Picture: Tom Horton

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Islington Council has been advised to consider sprinkler systems for all 126 of its high-rise housing blocks.

The charred remains of Grenfell Tower in Kensington. Picture: David Mirzoeff/PA WireThe charred remains of Grenfell Tower in Kensington. Picture: David Mirzoeff/PA Wire

A town hall committee has made the recommendation in a draft report about the safety of the council’s housing stock. It comes in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster in June last year.

But the report, by Islington’s housing scrutiny committee, said there would also be a familiar hitch: money.

The cost of installing sprinklers could be nearly £100million, the committee said. To put that in context, Islington has been forced to propose £32million of cuts in its planned budget for 2018/19 due to central government funding slashes.

In all, the council’s 126 high-rises – defined as six storeys or over – contain 6,200 flats.

Fire engulfs Grenfell Tower in Kensington in June. Seventy-one people died in the blaze. Picture: Natalie OxfordFire engulfs Grenfell Tower in Kensington in June. Seventy-one people died in the blaze. Picture: Natalie Oxford

The committee, which is chaired by Finsbury Park Cllr Mick O’Sullivan, said in the report: “The committee would support the installation of sprinklers in all council blocks over six storeys in height, which equates to approximately 18 metres.

“However, the committee also appreciates the significant cost of sprinkler systems, and technical and operational challenges related to asbestos removal, water pressure, providing access, resident acceptance of trunking/boxing, and ongoing maintenance.

“Officers advised that the indicative cost of installing sprinklers in blocks of 10 storeys and above could be anywhere between £43m and £97m, and it is noted that the government has ruled out providing funding for these works.

“It is suggested 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.”

Smoke billows from Grenfell Tower in Kensington the day after the fire that killed 71 people. Hackney's police borough commander Simon Laurence will head up the Met's response to an inqury into the blaze. Picture: Rick Findler/PA ArchiveSmoke billows from Grenfell Tower in Kensington the day after the fire that killed 71 people. Hackney's police borough commander Simon Laurence will head up the Met's response to an inqury into the blaze. Picture: Rick Findler/PA Archive

Several other London councils, such as Croydon, Waltham Forest, Enfield and Wandsworth, have already decided to fit sprinkler systems on high-rise blocks.

Meanwhile, the committee also suggested installing individual sprinklers for the properties of known hoarders.

However, funding for this may be easier to come by. The council could apply to London Fire Brigade’s fire safety investment fund, which provides preventative equipment to vulnerable people.

The report will be discussed at a meeting of the housing scrutiny committee at the town hall on Tuesday next week.

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