Published September 5, 2019
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick want to change the law over the installation of fire sprinklers in new build high rise developments.
He wants to almost half the height at which it becomes mandatory for developers to fit sprinklers.
Currently only buildings over 30m – around ten storeys – are legally required to include sprinklers. The government is proposing to reduce that level to 18m or six storeys.
The proposals were made as Mr Jenrick, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government announced the creation of a new Protection Board.
The Protection Board, made up of the Home Office and National Fire Chiefs Council, will provide assurance to high-risk residential blocks and provide tailored building checks and inspections where needed to all high-risk residential buildings in England by 2021.
Mr Jenrick said: “Residents’ safety is our utmost priority and we are making vital improvements to ensure buildings are safe.
“I have listened to concerns on sprinklers from residents and building owners and our proposals are an important step forward in shaping the future building safety standards.”
The Communities Secretary has made up to £10 million a year available to support the Board in carrying out the work. It will remain in place until a new building safety regulator is established to oversee the new regulatory regime for buildings and legislation on a new building safety regime is introduced.
Mr Jenrick also fired out a warning to private owners of high rise properties who are dragging their feet over the removal of unsafe ACM (aluminum composite material) cladding.
The government has launched a £200 million fund to support owners of private property which has unsafe cladding, and a further £4 million for local authorities to collect data and identifying types of cladding on high-rise buildings.
Mr Jenrick, added: “Government funds are available for private building owners to remove and replace unsafe ACM cladding, and let me be clear, inaction will have consequences and I will name and shame those who do not act during the course of the autumn.
“There is no excuse for further delay – and for building owners to fail to take action now would be frankly disgraceful.”
The consultation on reducing the building height at which new homes must be fitted with sprinklers will last for 12 weeks. It also seeks views to introduce an emergency evacuation alert system for use by fire and rescue services, alongside other fire safety measures.
Building Safety Minister Lord Younger said: “I’m determined to ensure buildings across the country are safe for residents and the opening of our private sector fund and commitment to new building safety legislation is an important step in driving that forward.
“This government is acting and I’m calling on all building owners and developers to step up and make any changes needed to ensure their buildings are safe.”
Protect24 have retrofitted fire sprinklers and fire safety systems for a number of privately owned high-rise residential property.
Managing Director Mark Lyons welcomed the steps but believes more must be done to protect residents.
He said: “This is a step forward and it shows the government is finally taking this seriously but it does not address those buildings already built.
“We know fire sprinklers save lives everyone living in a high-rise property should be afforded that protection.
“We have seen first hand the benefits of sprinklers. A fire in a ground floor apartment in a property where we had recently retrofitted sprinklers was extinguished by a single sprinkler. The daughter of the lady living in the flat has no doubts it saved her life.
“They also saved the building. Damage to her home was minimal, no other property was affected and there was no need to evacuate any of the other residents.
“Hours later in London and a fire in a property without sprinklers was completely destroyed. Sprinklers work and they should be installed in every high-rise property regardless of age.”
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