A TOWER OF SENSE
£10million a small price to pay to install sprinklers
Sprinkler systems are set to be fitted to every tower block across Airdrie and Coatbridge in a £10million move to minimise fire risk.
North Lanarkshire Council has made the proposal following discussions with the fire service and structural surveys; with work anticipated to begin “as soon as practical” later this year.
Assistant chief executive Des Murray said: “Minimising risk in our 48 tower blocks is our absolute priority.
“We have concluded that – while our fire safety arrangements are robust – installing sprinklers will further enhance safety and provide additional reassurance.”
He added: “We have robust fire and safety procedures, including caretakers being fully fire-warden trained, safety guidance issued to all residents and regular fire risk assessments carried out.”
Officials had already been surveying towers since August 2016, but changed the format in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy in London last June to provide information first on “external cladding fire integrity”, then internal structure such as “compartmentalisation of the homes and common areas”.
Phase three, reviewing columns, beams, floors and roofs, is due to get underway soon and will take around 10 months. Firefighters have also been conducting their own additional safety surveys.
Housing committee members will tomorrow be asked to approve the proposal for sprinklers – described as “the most effective way to ensure fires are suppressed or even extinguished before the fire service can arrive”.
A report notes: “While there is no legal requirement to fit sprinklers ( at this time), it is considered the most effective way to enhance fire safety.
“Following discussion with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service [on] their recommendations, it is proposed that consideration be given to installing automatic sprinklers in tower blocks where deemed appropriate and feasible.
“Consultation is ongoing with SFRS, the British automatic fire sprinkler association and Scottish Water regarding the most appropriate specification, taking account of best practice; completion will enhance tenants’ safety, security and wellbeing.”
Meanwhile, the same housing report also outlines which blocks will be included in the opening phase of consultation on its plans – announced in December – to demolish and replace all 48 tower blocks in the authority area over the next two decades.
Residents at Dunbeth Court, High Coats and Jackson Court in Coatbridge are among those to be consulted in the first part of the project – along with those at the Campsie, Cheviot, Etive, Ettrick, Fintry, Killin, Nevis, Pentland, Sidlaw, Striven and Tinto flats in Shawhead.
Airdrie’s tower blocks in Holehills – Cheviot, Merrick and Pentland Courts – are also part of phase one along with the flats at the town’s Northburn Place.
The blocks concerned have been chosen to be in the first phase of consulation after considering “a number of factors including waiting list demand, stock turnover and investment requirements”; and residents will be invited to meetings and open days, as well as receiving surveys and newsletters.
The report for councillors confirms: “Re-provisioning [is] a long-term strategy; the council will continue to carry out the investment necessary to ensure its towers remain safe, secure and attractive places to live.”
Planned refurbishment including replacement cladding will still go ahead at Blairgrove, Glen, Merryston and Millbrae Courts in Coatbridge.
Early plans to develop common areas at Milton Court in Airdrie – designated for older people – will be put on hold “to await the outcome of the consultation regarding future re-provisioning before actions are progressed”; but the report adds: “All normal planned investment and routine works will continue”.
Mr Murray added of the consultation: “This is part of an ambitious plan to provide better homes, regenerate town centres and create jobs; it is separate to our plan to increase fire safety in the short term.”
This is part of an ambitious plan to provide better homes
Borrowed time Tower blocks, such as these ones at Thrashbush, will be demolished over the next two decades