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Firefighters call for ‘life saving’ sprinkler law

Technical Fire Safety Officer holding up a sprinkler Image copyright Aaron Chown
Image caption The London Fire Brigade wants all purpose-built residential blocks to have sprinklers fitted, irrespective of height

Firefighters are calling for a change in the law which would see sprinklers fitted in more new-build developments.

The London Fire Brigade (LFB) wants all purpose-built residential blocks to have sprinklers installed, irrespective of height.

Spot checks revealed only two out of 15, or 13% of new tower blocks in London, had sprinklers installed.

Communities Secretary James Brokenshire said they were “one of many fire safety measures”.

The Brigade say the industry has shown it “cannot self regulate” and developers are “consistently ignoring” advice.

LFB Commissioner Dany Cotton said she hopes new legislation will be brought in after a Government consultation on building regulations, which ends in March. It follows concerns sparked by the June 2017 Grenfell Tower fire, which led to the deaths of 72 people.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Grenfell Tower fire claimed the lives of 72 people in June 2017

She said: “Sprinklers save lives, they’re not a luxury.

“We think they’re essential in every high-rise building, and in places where our most vulnerable residents live – places like care homes.

“The LFB are campaigning on vital things like sprinklers because we think that no community should ever have to suffer in the way Grenfell has.”

The spot checks were made on developments for which planning applications were made in 2016 and showed few had heeded the LFB’s advice to install sprinklers.

Image copyright PA
Image caption LFB Commissioner Dany Cotton said housing developers are “consistently ignoring” advice

Labour’s housing spokesperson Sarah Jones said: “It is outrageous that developers continue to ignore our fire services – and that the Government let them.

“The Government cannot continue to deny councils the funds for retrofitting of sprinklers by claiming they are non-essential.”

In England, sprinklers are only a legal requirement in new residential blocks taller than 30 metres.

In Wales, they are mandatory in all new domestic buildings while in Scotland they are compulsory in residential buildings including care homes, sheltered housing and schools above 18 metres.

The Government believes an appropriate level of fire safety can be achieved without retrofitting sprinklers.

Mr Brokenshire said: “I will be considering all submissions, including the LFB’s, carefully, in informing next step.

“There is nothing more important than ensuring people are safe and feel safe in their homes and I welcome LFB’s input into our consultation on fire safety regulations.”

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