Belfast Telegraph

Sprinklers should be installed in Housing Executive tower blocks following Grenfell tower fire – report

Independent review warns against compromise or shortcuts after tragedy

Water sprinklers should be installed in Housing Executive tower blocks in Northern Ireland following the Grenfell fire, an independent report said.

It will cost £3-4 million to put the safety system for extinguishing flames into each individual flat but an expert report warned against shortcuts.

Sixteen blocks also need special doors installed to halt the spread of fire, the review recommended. Work should also be carried out at the distinctive pyramid-shaped roofing of the New Lodge flats in North Belfast improving smoke ventilation.

Professor Alastair Adair said: “Significant challenges lie ahead, and in an environment of ongoing reductions in public expenditure, there cannot be any compromise or shortcuts taken in fire safety provision in high-rise residential buildings.

“The scale of the Grenfell fire tragedy and the colossal impact on so many lives and families has shaken public confidence in the commitment of high-rise residential building owners and statutory agencies to provide adequate fire safety provision.”

Prof Adair from Ulster University chaired the Independent Reference Group into Fire Safety in Housing Executive tower blocks.

It said cladding systems used in four Executive blocks – Cuchulainn House and Eithne House in North Belfast and Carnet House and Whincroft House in East Belfast – did not include the same material which caught fire at Grenfell.

That blaze, which killed 71 people in June last year, spread through combustible insulation and cladding panels which had been wrapped around the West London accommodation to meet energy-saving targets.

The Executive is considering demolishing some of its 33 tower blocks in Northern Ireland.

They date from the era many decades ago before sprinkler systems were installed as a standard fire precaution.

The Executive was unequivocal that improvement work would be carried out. Chief executive Clark Bailie said: “Money will be found.”

A ninth floor fire at Coolmoyne tower block in Dunmurry last November was started by a defective toaster.

The report said fire doors helped contain the fire in the flat where it started and urged speedy progress on 16 blocks where doors are not in compliance and procurement is still being reviewed.

It recommended the Executive enhances the resources within the existing compliance team to ensure a robust inspection, testing and maintenance regime is in place.

Professor Adair said Coolmoyne showed many residents were not aware of the correct procedures.

His report requested that all residents were updated about action being taken.

Mr Bailie added: “The report should give reassurance to tenants that we take safety extremely seriously.”

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