Sprinklers to be installed at South Shields tower blocks

Durham Court is one of the buildings which will have the sprinklers fitted.
Durham Court is one of the buildings which will have the sprinklers fitted.

Tower blocks in South Tyneside are set to have sprinkler systems fitted - four months on from the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

The safety of high-rise buildings was heavily scrutinised after the disaster in London, which claimed the lives of at least 68 people.

All four of South Tyneside's tower blocks were inspected after the tragedy, and deemed safe.

However, South Tyneside Council is to take action to retrofit sprinkler systems at a cost of an estimated £1.4million.

They will now be fitted at Ellen Court, Monastery Court and Wilkinson Court in Jarrow, and Durham Court in Hebburn.

The council's cabinet agreed the investment in a meeting today.

Coun 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 sent away for testing to provide additional reassurance for residents.

However, it received notification from the Building Research Establishment (BRE) that due to its 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.

TWFRS assistant chief officer Alan Robson said: “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.