Report of the Director of Community and Children’s Services.
The Committee considered a report of the Director of Community and Children’s Services which sought to update Members on the progress made by Arups in carrying out a detailed fire safety strategy audit on a representative sample of residential blocks on the Barbican Estate. The Assistant Director provided an update on the history and background of this project, for the benefit of new Members on the Committee.
Members noted an update to the recommendations in the report in that the Executive Director, Community and Children’s Services, strongly recommended the addition of sprinklers to the three high rise blocks on the Barbican Estate, as had been the case with the City’s social housing blocks. Members noted that they would receive further updates in respect of the action plan and feasibility study, and were encouraged to visit a trial installation in a flat on the Middlesex Street Estate.
During the discussion and questions, the following points were noted:
Whilst it was very important to be transparent about the intrusive nature of the works, it should be strongly emphasised that sprinklers save lives.
This report has also been circulated to the members of the RCC. At their last meeting on 6th June 2022, the Assistant Director made a commitment to robust communication and consultation with residents.
There is currently no budget for this work, as was the case with the fire door replacement project, and a special bid would be made. It was noted that these works are categorised as improvements and Leaseholders would not be liable.
The Barbican is a listed estate, so there will be planning issues. It was accepted that the works will be intrusive but would aim to conceal as much pipework and ducting as possible.
A ‘myth busting’ document had been produced for social housing and would be reproduced for the works on the Barbican Estate. Members noted that the risk of sprinklers being activated by accident is about 1 in 16 million.
There is a Fire Safety Officer in the Estate Office, who is also a former fire fighter, who works closely with the Fire Brigade. Although the Fire Brigade cannot enforce the installation of sprinklers they can make a strong recommendation.
The Executive Summary of Arup’s report, appended to this report, highlights a lot of the issues that will be picked up as part of the action plan.
In respect of Personal Evacuation Plans, officers had written to all residents and there had been a high level of response, given that co-operation is voluntary. Officers had also been pro-actively contacting those vulnerable residents who haven’t responded. Plans were being developed, and officers agreed to bring a report to the next meeting in respect of emerging recommendations and mitigations. There is a lot of officer intelligence in respect of residents with vulnerabilities, and the team work with adult social care services and the carers’ group. It was noted that the car park attendants also have a very good knowledge of vulnerable people on the estate.
1. The contents of this report be noted, together with the Fire Safety Strategy Reports produced by Arup in respect of Cromwell Tower and Andrewes House on the Barbican Estate.
2. The strong recommendation of the Executive Director in support of the retro-fitting of automatic water fire suppression systems (sprinklers) in the three Barbican high-rise tower blocks be noted, in terms of reconsidering the Committee’s previous decision to not fit sprinklers.
A Feasibility Study be undertaken, giving consideration to the views of residents and recommendations of the Executive Director, Arups and Fire Brigade.