Council boss wants £10m for sprinklers

Fire devastation at Grenfell Tower      Picture: Victoria Jones/PA Wire
Fire devastation at Grenfell Tower Picture: Victoria Jones/PA Wire
Penny Daniels

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PORTSMOUTH’S council boss has promised not ‘to settle for anything short of the best’ for residents in her campaign to make sure sprinklers are fitted all the city’s high-rise buildings.

Councillor Donna Jones said she would ‘not stop’ urging the government to provide up to £10m to fund the new systems.

She has written to the city’s two MPs asking for their help in securing funding to make changes to 13 of the area’s tallest residential buildings.

It follows calls from the county’s fire and rescue service for sprinklers to be installed in all high-rise flats.

Cllr Jones reassured residents all buildings met the ‘required safety standards’.

She added: ‘It is the government’s job to protect this country’s people. We will not settle for anything short of the best for our citizens.

‘We need our local MPs to use their influence in government to help secure the funding we need to get sprinklers into our high-rise buildings as a matter of urgency.’

The letter comes in the wake of last week’s Grenfell Tower blaze in London, following which 79 people have been confirmed dead or still missing.

Portsmouth City Council is planning to add sprinklers to buildings with at least 10 storeys, of which there are 13 in the city.

Senior council officers have estimated the work will cost between £8m and £10m.

The letter has been sent to Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt, Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan and the Home Secretary Amber Rudd.

It says: ‘As you are aware, the city council has seen a 44 per cent reduction in funding from central government over the last six years and with increasing pressures on statutory services for adult social care, the city council seeks government funding to retrofit these essential life-saving devices.

‘We’ve recently written to the residents of these blocks to reassure them that relevant fire risk assessments have been undertaken.‘Ongoing fire-safety reviews will continue to be carried out.’

Some cladding from the city’s high rise buildings has been submitted for testing, to make sure it is not a fire risk.

The government has said tests will be carried out on about 600 high rises across the country.

On Wednesday Southampton City Council announced it would be retrofitting sprinklers into flats, with work already starting on three blocks.

The work is expected to cost between £10m and £12m, though it has not been confirmed where the funding will come from.

Mr Morgan said on Thursday he supported the comments made by Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service chief fire officer Dave Curry, who said sprinklers were like ‘having a firefighter in every room’ and provided the ‘ultimate protection’ in case of an emergency.

Mr Morgan added: ‘Councils must be given the resources to assure communities and keep homes safe - that’s what we all want to see.’

The News has approached Ms Mordaunt for comment.