Sprin­kling £10m to help save lives

Wishaw Press - - FRONT PAGE - Ju­dith Ton­ner

Sprin­kler sys­tems are set to be fit­ted to every tower block in North La­nark­shire in a £ 10 mil­lion move to min­imise the risk of fire.

The 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 war­den­trained, 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 un­der way 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 Gowk­thrap­ple tow­ers Aller­shaw and Birk­shaw and the area’s low-rise flats will be among those to be con­sulted in the first phase of the project along with those at Al­lan, Cours­ing­ton and Draf­fen tow­ers in Mother­well.

The tow­ers con­cerned – in­clud­ing more in Air­drie and Coat­bridge – have been cho­sen to be in the first phase of con­sul­ta­tion 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.”

Plans to ex­tend com­mon ar­eas and im­prove tech­nol­ogy at Aller­shaw Tower – which is 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.”

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