One month on from the worst fire disaster in this country since World War II, and Croydon Council has issued a press release clarifying that work to fulfil its promise to retro-fit sprinklers in its residential towers won’t start for another three months, and won’t be completed until “next spring”.
There is to be a debate in the House of Commons today on the Grenfell Tower tragedy, where the official death toll is 80, while hundreds more people have had their homes destroyed and their lives blighted.
As well as the cladding on the outside of the building being blamed for the rapid spread of the fire, the building’s lack of any sprinkler system – as was recommended in a 2013 coroner’s report following fatalities in a previous fire in a London high-rise – has also been suggested as a contributory factor in the dreadful number of deaths.
It took the tragedy in north Kensington for Croydon Council to decide to implement the sprinkler recommendations of that 2013 report.
“Work will start this October and finish next spring on installing fire sprinklers for every resident in the council’s 25 tallest tower blocks,” was the message yesterday from the propaganda department in the bunker of Fisher’s Folly, the £140million council HQ (which, of course, does have a sprinkler system fitted).
“The sprinklers will go into individual flats or communal areas of the council’s 25 tallest blocks at 10, 11 or 12 storeys, plus sprinklers will also be installed for residents of an eight-storey sheltered accommodation block in Addiscombe,” the council statement said.
Croydon persists in using the Grenfell tragedy for a very dubious version of virtue signalling, claiming, “At its June cabinet meeting, Croydon was the first London borough after the Grenfell Tower tragedy to announce it will install tower block sprinklers.”
Note the weasel use of “after” there.
Even neighbouring borough Sutton had already retro-fitted sprinklers to some of its older residential blocks, without the need for a tragedy on the scale of Grenfell to force them into following the recommendations of the 2013 Lakanal coroner’s report.
In its press statement yesterday, Croydon Council confirmed that “all 39 council tower blocks meet fire brigade standards” and “that its 16 tower blocks with cladding have good-quality, fire-retardant materials”. This is in stark contrast to the tests conducted on the cladding used on hundreds of other tower blocks around the country, all of which have failed emergency safety tests conducted in the past four weeks.
The council’s tallest residential towers are in New Addington, Waddon and South Norwood.
This month’s council cabinet meeting will announce the creation of a fire safety board with London Fire Brigade, as well as discussions with LFB about considering installing sprinklers in residential towers between six and nine storeys tall, of which there are 13 around the borough.
“Croydon Council’s first priority after Grenfell was ensuring the safety of our tenants and leaseholders,” according to Alison Butler, the council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for housing. The council press release did not state what Butler and the council’s “first priority” might have been before Grenfell.
“From setting up our fire safety board to installing sprinklers in 25 tower blocks by next spring, this council is doing all it can to limit future fire risk in Croydon by responding robustly to the Grenfell Tower tragedy,” Butler said.
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