As May welcomes campaign for sprinklers, yet another council refused funding

Tower Block council housing

In a recent commentary for Inside Housing, Theresa May welcomed the magazine’s Never Again fire safety campaign.

Theresa May wrote, “In the 16 months since the Grenfell tragedy I have spoken to many survivors, to friends and relatives of those who were lost, and to local residents.

“I will never forget what they told me about that terrible night. And I will never falter in my determination to see that such a tragedy never happens again.

“That’s why I welcome Inside Housing’s Never Again campaign. This magazine has a long and proud history as a champion of building safety, and I share its commitment to making sure all our homes are as safe as they can be.”

The Never Again campaign was launched by the social housing magazine the week after the tragic Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017. The campaign, updated in 2018, urges government to act, and includes a call to fund the retrofitting of sprinkler systems in all tower blocks across the UK, as well as a request to stand by the commitment to fully fund the removal of dangerous cladding.

The government has previously declined to pay for sprinklers in social housing. When Nottingham Council asked central government for £6m to retrofit its 13 tower blocks with sprinklers, former housing minister Alok Sharma refused the request saying they were “additional not essential.”

In November last year, Ms May personally rejected calls from Labour for funding for new sprinklers. Dany Cotton, commissioner of the London Fire Brigade, has made repeated calls for all social housing tower blocks to be fitted with fire sprinkler devices, saying “this can’t be optional, it can’t be a ‘nice to have’. This is something that must happen.”

At Applications Engineering we were heartened to hear Theresa May’s words, but astounded and stopped in our tracks to subsequently learn that the government has since refused funding to Leeds council for the retrofitting of sprinklers in social housing tower blocks.

Leeds council are proceeding with the project, despite the lack of funding from central government. They will spend £10 million on placing sprinklers in every one of the city’s 116 tower blocks.

Ms May’s gallant speech at the National Housing Summit, and her seemingly caring words in her article written for Inside Housing, are meaningless if local councils aren’t being given the funding required to retrofit sprinklers in tower blocks.

Come on Ms May, please explain! There’s a huge disconnect between your words and what is actually happening at the local level. At Applications Engineering we wholeheartedly support the retrofitting of fire sprinklers and the Never Again campaign.

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