12 December 2017 | Herpreet Kaur Grewal
Manchester City Council's executive is set to approve the installation of sprinklers in the 36 council-owned high-rise properties in consultation with residents.
The move is in response to the Grenfell Tower tragedy early this year and will follow the completion of high-level fire risk assessments (Type 4) that ensures compartmentation of flats, designed to contain fire within an individual dwelling and stop any spread.
Basic fire risk assessments (Type 1) are already in place in all city council-owned blocks and housing association provider high-rises, and were redone immediately following the Grenfell fire.
Greater Manchester Fire and rescue (GMFRS) has visited every single high-rise block in Manchester and provided the city council with details. Where necessary, the fire safety officer has taken steps to address safety issues.
The city council has also written to every owner or building manager of the 216 privately owned high-rises identified in the city to understand whether the cladding or other building materials used presented pose potential safety issues.
The 216 building owners were contacted in the first two weeks of November and, as they respond, the council is building up a detailed database, which is being shared with DCLG as part of a national picture.
The owners of 12 private buildings that feature aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding have responded positively and have begun remedial works or commissioned fire-risk assessments to reassure residents and fire officers that fire safety measures are in place.
A detailed procedure is being established within the city council and Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) to deal with any owners who fail to respond.
The council enforcement team, building control service and GMFRS are working closely together to ensure that any necessary enforcement actions are correctly actioned.
But there remains some confusion about enforcement responsibilities and how they are carried out, owing to a lack of clarity within the current legislation.
The city council and GMFRS say they would like to see a revision in guidance for fire safety in flats to address different types of tenure and responsibilities of the building owner and tenants to clearly set out expectations of each party to guarantee fire safety.
Councillor Bernard Priest, deputy leader of Manchester City Council, said: "We need to get to a position where every person who lives in a high-rise block feels safe in their homes, understands fire procedures for the building, and building owners know what their responsibilities are.
"We are still awaiting the outcome of the national inquiry following the Grenfell tragedy and we are ready to act quickly to any recommendations. However, we already know that a review into enforcement powers of councils and the fire service is vital to ensure the legislation is in place to fully protect residents.
"We believe that we should retrofit sprinkler systems in our high-rise properties, but it is important that we do this in conversation with our residents - and funding the works will need to be in conversation with government for their support."
Bev Hughes, deputy mayor of Greater Manchester, added: "Through the work of the Greater Manchester High Rise Taskforce, we have been able to take swift action to reassure residents living in high-rises across Greater Manchester and make sure that the right fire safety advice is in place."