Wythenshawe Community Housing Group says it will consider fitting sprinkler systems to its tower blocks if that is what is required to maintain the safety of residents.
The Group, which runs social housing in Wythenshawe, has been reviewing fire safety in its tower blocks in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire in the North Kensington, London in which at least 79 people have died.
Cladding is already being removed from the Group’s Village 135 complex for elderly people in Wythenshawe and The Reporter put a number of questions to the landlord about other aspects of fire safety, raised by residents.
We asked what consideration has been given to retrofitting all WCHG blocks with sprinklers and whether assurances can be given that external timber cladding and timber decking in walkways are safe.
A spokesperson for the Group said: “WCHG like other housing providers are currently working with Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service and Manchester City Council to review the options at each of its blocks.
“Whilst it is early days, the Group is considering all options including sprinkler systems and will continue to work with partners to ensure any changes to the fire risk assessments are implemented. The safety of our tenants remains our top priority.”
Manchester City Council’s deputy leader, Cllr Bernard Priest said he believed sprinklers would be fitted to high rises to ensure residents are safe. He told the Manchester Evening News: “I think we are going to end up installing sprinklers – that’s not a commitment, because I can’t commit the social landlords to that, but I think that’s where we are going to end up. Public opinion is rapidly moving in that direction and so is my opinion.”
Wythenshawe Community Housing Group removed panels from the Village 135 complex at the junction of Brownley Road and Hollyhedge Road.
Group Chief Executive Nigel Wilson said: “I have arranged for contractors to remove all affected panels across the Village 135 development. Whilst this is beyond the recommended requirements, continuing to provide residents with assurance is our primary concern.
County Fire Officer of Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service Peter O’Reilly said: “Firefighters had inspected the buildings at Village 135 in Wythenshawe and although the complex did not give them great concern, the Service would continue to liaise with the management team and developer to confirm that any cladding fitted to the outside of the buildings complies with building and fire safety regulations.
He added: “The properties appear to be of a high standard and have two means of escape from each block. Fire officers found that each block has a communal fire alarm system and the individual apartments have hard wired interlinked detection. They said the use of brick to separate the cladding systems would hinder fire spread. The combination of the passive and active fire safety measures across Village 135 appeared to our team to be sufficient to support the escape of the residents.
“Follow up work by fire officers will be carried out to enhance measures to support the evacuation of persons with reduced mobility but on the whole, we’d like to reassure residents this building does not give us any great concern from a fire safety point of view.”
The £20 million Extra Care Homes scheme at Village 135 was completed earlier this year and consists of 135 homes comprising 66 rented apartments, 39 shared ownership and 30 for sale.