THE firm behind Portsmouth’s iconic new ‘blade’ building has agreed to put in sprinklers to increase students’ and firefighters’ safety.
As The News exclusively revealed in June, Watkin Jones, which owns the site of the planned 330ft building in Victoria Park, had refused to put sprinklers in the development, despite Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service’s safety fears,
But, after pressure from the fire service, the firm has now agreed the safety feature will be included.
It is estimated that adding sprinklers will add an extra £400,000 to the £30m cost of building the tower.
Hampshire Fire & Rescue Service’s deputy chief officer, Dave Curry, praised The News for its part in bringing the issue to light.
‘We’re pleased Watkin Jones made this decision,’ he said.
‘We’d like to thank the media for highlighting the issue, which has helped us in our negotiations.’
The 33-storey building will house 600 University of Portsmouth students when it is completed in 2013.
The university will nominate students to live in the development, which will continue to be owned by Watkin Jones.
The company had followed building regulations which state student halls of residence, as so-called ‘managed buildings’, do not need sprinklers.
At a meeting with the fire service earlier this month, they had refused to install them.
But on Friday, the firm called a second meeting, where they told firefighters they had changed their minds and sprinklers will be put in all communal areas of the building.
Mr Curry said: ‘It’s good news for the people who will live there and our officers.
‘Without sprinklers, fires in a building this size could endanger lives. But sprinklers are like a 24-hour firefighter in every room.
‘They reduce fires if they break out and the smaller fires which may remain can be more easily and quickly dealt with by our officers.’
Area safety manager Mick Crennell said: ‘This is a fantastic outcome – I commend Watkin Jones for its vision and foresightedness as well as its openness and commitment to make this building as safe as possible for all concerned.’
Watkin Jones’ development manager Paul Gillespie said: ‘We designed the building to all legal safety standards, but sometimes those standards have to be looked at again. We decided sprinklers could and should be installed. We will build them in as part of the development process.’
Deputy vice-chancellor of the University of Portsmouth Rebecca Bunting said: ‘We welcome the news the developers are working closely with the fire service.
‘The care of our students is always our number one priority.’