Council’s post-Grenfell fire improvements continue
Sprinklers are now installed in around 400 homes so far under Croydon Council’s ongoing fire safety upgrade programme launched in response to the Grenfell Tower tragedy.
After the fire on 14 June last year, Croydon announced it would retrofit sprinklers in its tallest high-rise blocks, approving a £10 million programme in 25 blocks of 10-12 storeys, plus an eight-storey sheltered block.
In October, Croydon started retrofitting sprinklers by beginning work to a 10-storey building at College Green, Upper Norwood. These sprinklers went live in January, and council contractors have since completed work in eight more of these or around 400 flats. The remaining blocks will be completed by the autumn.
The council has requested a financial contribution from Government three times to limit the impact on council budgets, but to date, ministers have not pledged any money.
To monitor the sprinkler installation programme and wider standards across the borough in both publicly-owned and private buildings, the council set up a Fire Safety Board. This meets each month with representatives from London Fire Brigade to discuss everything from cladding inspections to fire risk assessments.
Croydon Council has also carried out extensive checks as part of a programme to maintain or improve fire safety for its 14,000 tenants and leaseholders and the wider borough. This has included:
• Completing inspections that found none of the council’s 39 high-rise blocks had cladding like the kind used at Grenfell Tower
• A review that confirmed all council-owned buildings met the required fire safety standards
• Replacing 442 communal and flat entrance fire doors
• Other fire safety works done to 163 of the council’s total of 1,100 blocks
Councillor Alison Butler, deputy leader and cabinet member for homes and Gateway services, said: “In a week where we are all remembering the victims of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, a lesson learnt must be that fire safety continues to be a top priority for everyone. That’s why Croydon Council decided to retrofit sprinklers in around 1,250 homes across the borough, and we are on schedule to complete this in a few months’ time.
“This £10m programme is very important, but it will hit our long-term finances unless we receive Government help. I urge ministers to relax tight restrictions on councils’ housing budgets like the borrowing cap – this would boost not just Croydon but other councils with bigger fire safety bills.”
Ahead of sprinkler works beginning on each of the 26 Croydon Council-owned blocks, staff and contractors brief residents in advance by sending letters, carrying out door-to-door visits and inviting them to view sprinklers already installed in neighbouring flats.
Each flat getting the upgrade has around six sprinklers hidden near ceilings behind a flat white disc. These pop off when the room temperature hits 57 degrees Celsius, then at 67 degrees they spray a fine water mist at a wide angle. The sprinkler will only be triggered in the room affected by the fire. This kind of targeted sprinkler reduces the risk of false alarms and water damage, coupled with fire breaks in place that limit spread between neighbouring flats and floors. The system also has alarms that mean London Fire Brigade is alerted when sprinklers are activated.