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Greater Manchester has set out plans to develop a world class approach to fire safety, as work continues to reassure thousands of local residents following the Grenfell Tower tragedy.
A feasibility study into the retrofitting of sprinklers in residential high rises, a consistent Greater Manchester approach to fire safety, and a call for the fire and rescue service to be consulted at all stages of a building’s life cycle, are part of the proposals put forward by Greater Manchester’s High Rise Task Force to the Greater Manchester Combined Authority.
The Task Force was set up by Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham following the Grenfell Tower tragedy to provide fire safety reassurance to thousands of local residents living in high rises across the city-region.
The proposals come as Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) completes the inspection of more than 500 residential high rises in Greater Manchester, to ensure they comply with fire safety regulations. Fire officers have been working with housing providers, local authorities and the private sector to ensure all buildings receive the right fire safety advice and residents feel safe in their homes.
Salford City Mayor Paul Dennett, who is leading the Greater Manchester High Rise Task Force, said: “Since the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower, Greater Manchester has taken swift action to reassure all our residents their homes are safe as quickly as possible. This is thanks to the commitment of the fire and rescue service and support from housing providers and local authorities who all share a common goal in prioritising the safety and care of local people.
“As we continue to ensure the safety of our residents, we are also working to make sure our voice is heard nationally and that steps are made so that a tragedy like Grenfell never happens again. In Greater Manchester, that means developing a world-class approach to fire safety which places the expertise of our fire and rescue service at its heart.”
Councillor David Acton, Chair of the Fire Committee said: “The Grenfell Tower tragedy marks a defining moment in relation to fire safety in high rise buildings across the country, and it is clear that there have been conflicts and confusion around fire safety legislation and building regulations. That is why we are proposing a Greater Manchester standard of fire safety, putting the safety of buildings and those living and working in them at the centre.
“In particular, we believe that the case to fit sprinkler systems in high rise flats, as part of a package of fire safety measures, has been overwhelmingly made. There is clear evidence that sprinklers can be effective in stopping fires spreading and putting them out, ultimately saving lives. As part of the work of the Task Force we will be exploring the retrofitting of sprinklers in existing blocks by undertaking a feasibility study.”
Evidence from the National Fire Chief’s Council shows that sprinklers are the most effective way to ensure that fires are suppressed or even extinguished before the fire service can arrive, with research also showing that in both converted and purpose built flats sprinklers are 100% effective in controlling fires.
Paul Dennett added: “Greater Manchester has not shied away from addressing the fire safety challenges highlighted following the Grenfell Tower tragedy but we also need Government to step up and provide the funding and resources we need to swiftly and effectively carry out this work, particularly around the replacement of cladding systems and retrofitting of sprinkler systems. Public bodies and emergency services are already struggling as a result of budget cuts and austerity; Government needs to act now to remove any barriers to keeping people safe.”
The Task Force includes landlords of tower blocks across the city region in both private and public ownership, as well as representatives from every local authority in Greater Manchester and other specialist officers who can offer support to ensure every high rise is safe.
Residents are also being offered a Safe and Well visit from GMFRS to talk about health and wellbeing, crime prevention as well as fire safety advice.
The work of the Task Force will inform a Greater Manchester response to the national public inquiry into the fire at Grenfell Tower. This will look at a wide range of issues, including consideration of sprinkler systems and the level of resource that the Fire and Rescue Service has following the cuts of recent years.
Greater Manchester will also be submitting evidence to the Government’s independent review of building regulations and fire safety, which will highlight concerns and conflicts in existing legislation.