A campaign to make social housing safer through the mandatory fitting of sprinkler systems has been backed by prime minister Theresa May, despite her previous opposition to such measures.
Inside Housing magazine has been campaigning hard for this to change and in an article written for the magazine, Mrs May revealed she now supports the idea.
She 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.”
The magazine’s editor Martin Hilditch welcomed news of the prime minister’s support, but said the government needs to do more to address the issue.
Campaigning for sprinklers in tower blocks and other social housing began after the Grenfell tragedy, although fire safety experts noted that an internal system would not have prevented the spread of the fire as it was funnelled upwards on the outside of the building.
Mrs May’s article comes as the Grenfell Inquiry continues, and also follows her address to the National Housing Federation, in which she promised a fund of £2 billion to housing associations to build more properties and spoke of the need to remove the “stigma” surrounding social housing.
The prime minister had told Parliament in October last year no extra government money would be forthcoming to fit sprinklers, a situation that may now change.
As well as Inside Housing, campaigning for sprinklers came from the Labour Party and a Change.org petition. The latter called for sprinkler systems in all high-rise buildings and has attracted nearly 230,000 signatures.
In May this year Birmingham City Council took the unilateral decision to spend £31 million fitting sprinklers in over 200 tower blocks, re-confirming an earlier decision that some councillors had acted to block in favour of evaluating premises on a case-by-case basis.
For further information on any of the points raised in this article please contact Andrew Murray in our Social Housing Team.