READER OPINION: ‘No excuses- we must fit sprinklers to all tower blocks’

Cladding being removed from Horatia House and Leamington House on Friday evening.

Picture: Sarah Standing
Cladding being removed from Horatia House and Leamington House on Friday evening. Picture: Sarah Standing
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After everything that has been published in the national and local media of the positive results of installing water sprinklers within buildings for life safety as well as property protection, I find the comment by the leader of Portsmouth City Council, Donna Jones, ‘that sprinkler systems may not be suitable for some concrete buildings as it could compromise safety’ to be nothing short of astonishing and shows a total lack of understanding of fire protection in buildings and in particular the high-rise blocks owned by Portsmouth City Council (City high rises set for review over sprinklers, June 30).

It was only a few days ago on June 20 that The News published the statement from Hampshire’s chief fire officer Dave Curry supporting sprinklers in all high-rise buildings.

As Mr Curry noted: ‘Time and again, sprinklers have been proven to prevent the spread of fire in buildings and drastically reduce the threat to life.’

As with both Kensington and Chelsea Council elected politicians, it is either an appalling ignorance of basic fire safety or the ingrained attitude that installing and retrofitting sprinklers is too expensive that is preventing what should be a normal part of any specification for high-rise and indeed many low-rise buildings.

Cllr Jones goes on to state: ‘We need to look at how many buildings will require a sprinkler system and how much it will cost’, so no prizes for guessing that in the case of Portsmouth city it is the cost of retrofitting sprinklers that is the real concern of councillors.

Well, let me answer the leader’s two questions above: the number of buildings under council ownership/control that need immediate installation of sprinklers is all 13 of the high rise blocks over 10 storeys high and the cost will be around the £1,200 per flat to retrofit a water sprinkler system to meet the requirements of Building Regulations Approved Document B and be compliant with the sprinkler standard BS9252.

I leave Cllr Jones to do the maths on the total cost and you do not have to decamp the residents while carrying out the work.

(Source: British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association retrofit of high-rise block in Sheffield )

Finally, if the council is still in any doubt why sprinklers are necessary to prevent loss of life and severe damage by fire to buildings used for social housing, then look at the letter from Mike Smith (Numpty alert, June 30).

The seven bullet points on causes, to which I could add some more, have been an issue resulting in fires in high-rise blocks way before I was attending such fires in the city in the early 1970s.

They continue to be a cause now and will be into the future.

So no more procrastination, make a decision to retrofit sprinklers into all existing high-rise blocks in the city and make it a condition going forward that all new blocks will have full sprinkler installations by enacting a bylaw under the Local Government Act 2000.

Richard Coates

Brights Lane

Hayling Island