The Grenfell Tower tragedy has obviously resulted in an outpouring of grief and compassion from residents in Hammersmith and Fulham to those in our neighbouring borough. It is also prompted fears from many residents in council blocks about their own safety.
The investigation of what happened in the Grenfell Tower will be important and will take time. Yet surely there is already enough evidence to make installing sprinklers an urgent priority?
I have asked for an update on this and a range of related concerns. But I’m afraid the situation is no likely to have changed since two years ago when the Council responded to a Freedom of Information request on the matter. It asked for a list of “residential high-rise tower blocks” owned by the Council. It defined high rise as 18 metres or above. The C0uncil interpreted that as properties over six floors and gave the following list of 40 blocks:
ASHCROFT SQUARE Primark (D) Kings Street W6 0JH-W
BARCLAY CLOSE Fulham Rd SW6 5QQ
BARTON HOUSE Wandsworth Bridge Rd SW6 2PD
BUSH COURT Shepherds Bush Green (17) W12 8PJ
CHURCHWARD HOUSE Ivatt Place W14 9LW
DESBOROUGH HOUSE North End Road W14 9UH
DRAKE COURT Scotts Road W12 8HG
FAIRBURN HOUSE Ivatt Place W14 9LZ
HARTOPP POINT Pellant Rd SW6 7NG
HENRIETTA HOUSE Queen Caroline St W6 9BT
HERBERT MORRISON HOUSE Lillie Road SW6 7SZ
JEPSON HOUSE Pearscroft Road SW6 2BG
JIM GRIFFITHS HOUSE Lillie Road SW6 7RZ
JOANNA HOUSE Queen Caroline Street W6 9EE
LAMPETER SQUARE Lampeter Sq. W6 8PS
LANCASTER COURT Darlan Road SW6 5TH
LANNOY POINT Pellant Rd SW6 7NQ
LICKEY HOUSE North End Road W14 9UQ
LINACRE COURT Great Church Lane W6 8DE
MICHAEL STEWART HOUSE Lillie Road SW6 7SS
MUSCAL HOUSE Field Road W6 8HS
NORLAND HOUSE Queensdale Crescent W11 4TL
POYNTER HOUSE Queensdale Crescent W11 4TA/D
ROSEFORD COURT Shepherds Bush Green (34) W12 8RA
SHACKLETON COURT Scotts Rd W12 8HQ
SHARNBROOK HOUSE Marchbank Road W14 9PL
SHEPHERDS COURT 21 Shepherds Bush Green W12 8PN/W
STAFFORD CRIPPS HOUSE Lillie Road SW6 7RX
STANDISH HOUSE St Peters Grove W6 9AY
STEBBING HOUSE 5 Queensdale cresc W11 4TE
SULGRAVE GARDENS Sulgrave Gardens W6 7RA
SULIVAN COURT Peterborough Road SW6 3DL
THACKERAY COURT Blythe Road W14 0PW
THE GRANGE Goldhawk Road W12 9PD
THE GRANGE Lisgar Terrace W14 8SL
TOM WILLIAMS HOUSE Lillie Road SW6 7SA/B
VERULAM HOUSE Hammersmith Grove W6 0NW
WALHAM GREEN COURT Cedarne Rd SW6 2DG
WALHAM GREEN COURT Fulham Rd SW6 2DH
WOODFORD COURT Shepherds Bush Green W12 8Q/YZ
None of them have sprinklers. (Apart from Roseford Court and Woodford Court having them in the car parks).
In the past some may have objected to sprinklers but this would probably have been due to misunderstanding. As the Labour MP Jim Fitzpatrick has said:
“Anyone watching a television drama, an advert or a movie will recognise the comedy value of all the fire sprinklers in a building going off and everyone getting drenched. That is good slapstick fun, but it is just not true. People have a misapprehension that that is what sprinklers do, when, as most of us in the Chamber know, the heads of sprinklers all work independently and will only actuate above a fire when the temperature is above 68°. In the media, people just do not get to see the value of sprinklers.”
Of course there would be a cost. It has been reported in the media that sprinklers for Grenfell Tower would have cost £200,000 – compared to £3 million on the external cladding and millions more on other work on the block.
Few of our blocks are as tall as Grenfell Tower – which is 24 storeys. Stebbing, Norland and Poynter Houses or the Edward Woods Estate are the same height. The other council in Hammersmith and Fulham are lower – some significantly so and therefore the cost of sprinklers per block would cost less. Suppose the total cost for all 40 blocks would be around £5 million. That would be a substantial cost but it should be prioritised. The Council’s annual capital spending on its housing stock is around £30 million a year.
One council document states that external cladding is planned for Hartopp Point and Lannoy Point in Fulham The Grange in Lisgar Terrace. I have asked the Council if they are still in the schedule to proceed…
I would certainly hope that the Council will get on with putting in the sprinklers.
If they refuse claiming lack of funds I will challenge this vigorously. After all they found £1.4 million for their unwanted stock transfer proposal. They miss out on revenue by having 423 empty council owned garages. I have challenged them over the cost of scaffolding which I hope will now be reduced. Also on them holding on to derelict empty properties which could be sold. Then there is the Council’s ideological refusal to sell any vacant street properties regardless of the proceeds. So even if a council house in Parsons Green could be told for £2.5 million and pay for several replacement properties – or a large number of sprinkler systems – this option is ruled out.
The list could go on. But I think the point is made. For the Council to claim it could not afford sprinklers would be completely unacceptable. Nor should it delay until it is imposed as a legal requirement.
Our residents need to be able to sleep safely at night.