London Assembly report calls for fire sprinklers to be retrofitted in high-risk blocks

Tragedy: the Grenfell Tower fire killed 71 people. Photograph: Natalie Oxford via Twitter

Sprinklers should be retrofitted in 200 housing blocks vulnerable to fire over the next five years, according to a new report by the London Assembly Planning Committee.

The committee, made up of three Labour and two Conservative politicians, has been assessing whether sprinklers should be mandatory in the capital’s homes in the wake of last year’s Grenfell Tower fire, which left 71 people dead.

In a final report released this week, titled ‘Never Again: Sprinklers as the next step in fire safety’, the committee calls on the government to make it compulsory for all new residential blocks over 18 metres tall to be fitted with Automatic Fire Suppression Systems (AFSS) such as sprinklers.

Currently, sprinklers are only mandatory in buildings higher than 30 metres.

The report also urges Mayor of London Sadiq Khan to put up £50 million to pay for sprinklers in 200 existing high-risk buildings by 2023.

London Assembly member Navin Shah

Speaking on behalf of the Planning Committee, the report’s author and Labour Assembly member Navin Shah said: “Requiring AFSS to be retrofitted in every existing building is not immediately feasible. In those buildings over 30 metres high alone, this could cost up to £500 million.

“A different approach is needed. The Mayor should focus on protecting those most vulnerable to fire risk through a new £50 million ‘London Sprinkler Retrofitting Fund’.”

The committee, which scrutinises the Mayor’s planning strategy, is calling on the government to devise a road map “with clear milestones towards making AFSS compulsory in every residential building in England”.

With that goal in mind, the report also recommends that national building regulations are updated to require all new care homes and sheltered housing in England to be fitted with sprinklers.

Shah said: “What happened to Grenfell Tower and the people who lived there must never be allowed to happen again. Fire is unforgiving and we must not be complacent about its tragic consequences.”

Since January 2016, the installation of AFSS has been compulsory in all new dwellings in Wales, Norway, Finland and some US jurisdictions.

Shah added: “Currently, we are behind the rest of the world when it comes to safeguarding Londoners from the horrific consequences of fire. It is time we act swiftly and decisively to change this.”

Five London councils – Croydon, Wandsworth, Hammersmith and Fulham, Brent and Waltham Forest – have already committed to installing sprinklers in certain blocks.

You can read the Planning Committee’s report in full here

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