How houseproud tenants have helped fund sprinkler systems in South Tyneside tower blocks in aftermath of Grenfell

Houseproud tenants have helped council chiefs fund new sprinkler systems in South Tyneside tower blocks by carrying out maintenance and improvements themselves.

By James Harrison
Wednesday, 29 May, 2019, 17:03

South Tyneside Council (STC) agreed to start work installing the life-saving fire safety systems in the borough’s high-rises in 2017, following the devastating fire at Grenfell Tower, in London.

And the £1.4million project was helped after bosses at South Tyneside Homes were pleasantly surprised to discover their Decent Homes Programme to improve properties would involve less work than they initially anticipated.

“We’re finding the condition of the houses is a bit better than we thought and we’re struggling to find work in some areas,” said Brian Scott, South Tyneside Homes’s director of resources

“Which is good, because it means some people have done their own work.

“We’re finding we’re not doing as many kitchens as we thought, so we’re allocating capital to other areas.

“Following Grenfell we’ve put sprinklers in high-rises.”

Mr Scott was speaking at this morning’s meeting of STC’s Housing Performance Panel, which included the organisation’s end of year performance report for 2018/19.

Work to install an automatic sprinkler system at the eighteen-storey Durham Court, in Hebburn, was finished in December (2018) and included individual properties within the block, as well as communal areas.

Of the borough’s other three tower blocks, all of which are in Jarrow:

Wilkinson Court – work was completed in April (2019)

Ellen Court – work has started and is due to be completed in September (2019)

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Monastery Court – initial work has started and is due to be completed in November (2019)

Together, the four high-rises are home to about 280 people.

Following the Grenfell Tower blaze, which killed 72 people, commissioned independent fire safety inspections of the blocks, despite the cladding being deemed fireproof and compliant with building regulations.

South Tyneside Homes’ Planned Maintenance Programme surveyed 3,234 properties in 2018/19.

Despite showing strong performance customer satisfaction, the target for sustaining tenancies was missed.

Addressing this, Mr Scott said: “The biggest issue is when people die – we’ve got a predominantly elderly [group of] tenants.

“But after that it’s because of things like moving out of the area, moving into residential care or for medical or health reasons.”

According to a report for councillors, deaths accounted for 352 tenancy terminations last year – equivalent to more than a fifth of the total number.

 

James Harrison , Local Democracy Reporting Service