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Investment for Tower Blocks

Sprinkler systems are to be fitted in all four of South Tyneside Council's tower blocks.

South Tyneside Council's cabinet agreed the investment in their meeting today (Thursday 12 October).

Although all four tower blocks are deemed safe, the council is taking action to retrofit sprinkler systems to all four high-rise building in South Tyneside.

It is anticipated that the improvements would cost an estimated £1.4m.

Automatic sprinkler systems will be fitted to Ellen Court, Monastery Court and Wilkinson Court in Jarrow and Durham Court in Hebburn.

Councillor Allan West, Lead Member for Housing and Transport at South Tyneside Council said: "We have done a huge amount of work in recent years to make sure our tower blocks are safe. The cladding systems are fireproof and comply with building and planning regulations but as an extra reassurance to residents we want to take action to retrofit sprinklers in all four blocks

"Our high-rise buildings are safe.  However, the tragic events at Grenfell have changed perceptions of high-rise safety. As a council, we have a duty to provide the best possible fire protection for our tenants, and we will do whatever it takes to keep people safe."

Following the tragic events in London this summer, South Tyneside Homes carried out fire safety inspections and commissioned an independent fire safety inspector to carry out a level four risk assessment in these buildings.

Although the council was not required to test its cladding, the material was nevertheless sent away for testing to provide additional reassurance for residents. However, we received notification from the Building Research Establishment (BRE) that due to our samples not being Aluminium Composite Materials (ACM) and therefore not similar to the cladding on Grenfell Tower, they did not deem it necessary to test.

English law requires only buildings constructed since 2007 and which are taller than 30m to have sprinklers fitted, and the law was not applied retroactively. This move by South Tyneside Council should enhance fire safety in their tower blocks over and above what is required by law at present.

TWFRS Assistant Chief Officer, Alan Robson commented: "Sprinklers save lives and we encourage housing providers to install them. We welcome South Tyneside Council's decision to retrofit its high rises. We continue to work with all housing providers to help them make informed decisions on what fire safety measures they could consider for their buildings."

Consultation roadshows will take place with residents over the coming months in preparation for work taking place.


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