Next week (Weds, 13 December) Manchester City Council’s executive are 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. All fire assessments for Council-owned properties have been made available of the Council’s website.*See notes to editors.
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 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 any potential safety issues.
216 building owners have been 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 actioned 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 not responding.
The Council enforcement team, Building Control service and GMFRS are working closely together to ensure that any necessary enforcement actions are correctly actioned.
However, there remains some confusion around enforcement responsibilities and how they are carried out due to a lack of clarity within the current legislation.
The City Council and GMFRS 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 ensure fire safety.
Cllr 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.”
Deputy Mayor of Greater Manchester Bev Hughes 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. Specialist fire officers continue to work with building owners and local authorities, including Manchester City Council, to address fire safety issues and contribute to Greater Manchester’s ambition of a world-class approach to fire safety, which places the expertise of our fire and rescue service at its heart."