Sprinkling £10m to help save lives
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.”