Calderdale’s high rise fire safety shock

The cladding being removed on three blocks of flats in Mixenden, Halifax.
The cladding being removed on three blocks of flats in Mixenden, Halifax.

There is not a single fire sprinkler system in any former council high-rise block in Calderdale.

The revelation comes after London’s fire commissioner said sprinklers save lives and should be retrofitted to older blocks in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster.

Labour's Halifax MP Holly Lynch

Labour's Halifax MP Holly Lynch

London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton said: “Sprinklers are the only fire safety system that detects a fire, suppresses a fire and raises the alarm.

“They save lives and protect property and they are especially important where there are vulnerable residents who would find it difficult to escape, like those with mobility problems.”

Meanwhile Together Housing, which owns and runs former council housing in Calderdale, has started work on removing cladding at three tower blocks in Mixenden that failed fire safety tests.

George Paterson, director of property services at Together Housing Group, said: “While our high rise blocks in Calderdale do not currently have sprinklers fitted, our comprehensive review of fire safety includes considering whether we will fit them in future.

“Our immediate priority has been to remove the cladding, but the safety and reassurance of our tenants remains central to our work and we will be keeping them informed about other considerations in due course.”

Halifax MP Holly Lynch said: “I would like to see us moving towards sprinkler systems in all high rise buildings, however, this will represent a significant cost which housing associations would not be able to meet.

“I will be working with Together Housing and this government to ensure that there is investment directly from central government for this safety measure which I’m sure would be welcomed by all.”

Chris Kirby, area manager for fire safety at West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, said there would be a financial impact but sprinklers were “highly reliable and effective”.

“Detailed analysis undertaken between 2011 and 2016, using data from 47 fire and rescue services, showed that sprinklers controlled or extinguished fires in 99 per cent of cases.”

Cladding will be removed from Mixenden Court, Jumples Court and Wheatley Court after it failed a stricter test set commissioned by the government.

Mr Paterson said: “Following advice from the government around the safety of the cladding, we have put together a plan that minimises disruption to tenants and ensures that the cladding and insulation are removed quickly and safely. We expect the job to last for several weeks, but we’re happy with the progress being made.

“Neighbourhood staff from Together Housing Group are working closely with residents in high-rise blocks to keep them informed and we are also partnering with West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service to promote a number of fire safety campaigns in the coming months.”

Anyone with questions can call 0300 555 5557.

A recent investigation found only a small proportion of social housing across the country had sprinklers fitted. Regulations mean that only buildings constructed since 2007 that are taller than 30m are required to have the safety measure.