Sprinklers fitted in South Tyneside's tallest tower block in wake of Grenfell tragedy
Durham Court in Hebburn, which stands 18 storeys high, is the biggest and the first of the borough’s four tower blocks to have an automatic sprinkler system installed.
South Tyneside Council’s Cabinet took the decision last October to invest Â£1.4million to retro-fit sprinklers in all its tower blocks, even though they were deemed safe in the wake of the tragic Grenfell Tower fire in June last year.
The 127 residents of Durham Court have been consulted and every property has undergone a home safety check in advance of work starting.
This highlighted any additional support required from both South Tyneside Council and South Tyneside Homes for more vulnerable residents.
Phase one of the work will involve the installation of the sprinklers to communal areas, followed by residents’ individual properties.
Scooter storage areas are also being brought in to ensure that communal areas remain clear.
Coun Mark Walsh, lead member for housing and transport, said: “Our tower blocks are safe, but we know that since the Grenfell Tower disaster people understandably have concerns about these kinds of buildings.
“We want to ensure our tenants benefit from the best possible fire protection measures, which is why we took the proactive decision to install sprinklers.
“Sprinkler systems substantially reduce injuries and damage to property. We hope that they will give our residents additional peace of mind.”
Durham Court tenant Resident Peter Tallack, 72, said: "The council has been proactive on this and taken it in hand. I'm very pleased the council is taking action. I'd rather have some disruption and save a life if the worst were to happen."
Sprinklers will also be fitted to Ellen Court, Monastery Court and Wilkinson Court in Jarrow. All are 12 storeys high, and have 57, 51 and 51 residents respectively.
Tyne and Wear's Assistant Chief Fire Officer John Baines said: "I am delighted that South Tyneside Council has chosen to install an automatic sprinkler system at Durham Court. This is a progressive step in tackling fire safety for the residents of South Tyneside.
“Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service promotes the fitting of sprinklers in new buildings as part of an effective fire safety solution, and also retro-fitting of sprinklers in existing buildings, on a risk-assessed basis.
“Quite simply, sprinklers save lives, reduce injuries, improve firefighter safety, and protect homes and businesses, which in turn supports the economy and protects the environment.”
Cladding systems in the blocks are fireproof and comply with building and planning regulations.
However, following the Grenfell fire, South Tyneside Homes carried out fire safety inspections and commissioned an independent fire safety inspector to carry out a level four risk assessment in the four buildings.
English law requires only buildings constructed since 2007 and which are taller than 30 metres to have sprinklers fitted, and the law was not applied retroactively.