Tower block tenants refusing to have sprinkler systems fitted as safety drive continues after Grenfell Tower fire

High-rise tenants in Jarrow and Hebburn have been refusing to allow sprinklers to be installed.

By James Harrison
Thursday, 25 July, 2019, 06:00
Durham Court

Work to install an automatic fire safety systems in South Tyneside’s four tower blocks started in 2017 in response to the Grenfell Tower fire, in London.

Upgrades to the eighteen-storey Durham Court, in Hebburn, were finished in December 2018, but housing bosses in South Tyneside have revealed one of the flats turned down the opportunity to be covered.

And there have been further hold-outs at the borough’s three remaining high-rises in Hebburn, where prevention measures are still being rolled-out.

“Durham Court is the biggest [of South Tyneside’s tower blocks] and that work is now done, sprinklers are in and all the houses have got the system installed apart from one which has refused,” said Brian Scott, South Tyneside Homes’s director of resources.

“Ellen Court, Wilkinson Court and Monastery Court should be completed by September or October, although we’ve had more people in those who have refused [to have sprinklers fitted].”

More than 70 people died following the devastating blaze at Grenfell Tower in June 2017.

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The tragedy prompted councils across the country to examine safety measures at their own high-rises.

And in the October after the fire, South Tyneside Council agreed to pay £1.4million to retrofit its four tower blocks with sprinklers, even though the buildings had been deemed safe.

Mr Scott, who was speaking at this morning’s meeting of the borough council’s Housing Performance Panel, added: “We’re not trying to come down heavy on them [the tenants], we’re trying to encourage them, that it’s an extra layer of safety, but some people are against it.

“We’re not the only people who have had that problem, a lot of councils and housing associations are having problems trying to change and get people to put them in.”

Almost 300 people are thought to live in the four tower blocks, whose cladding systems were ruled fireproof and compliant with building and planning regulations.

English law requires only buildings constructed since 2007 and taller than 30m to have sprinklers fitted – the law was not applied retroactively.