Sprinklers to be fitted to Cumberland Towers after Grenfell disaster

Cumberland Towers in Ipswich. Picture: SU ANDERSON

Cumberland Towers in Ipswich. Picture: SU ANDERSON

Nearly £184,000 is set to be spent installing a sprinkler system in Ipswich’s only tower block in the wake of June’s Grenfell Tower tragedy.

Suffolk Chief Fire Officer Mark Hardingham at an exercise at Cumberland Towers. Picture: PAUL GEATER

Suffolk Chief Fire Officer Mark Hardingham at an exercise at Cumberland Towers. Picture: PAUL GEATER - Credit: Archant

Cumberland Towers is 12 storeys high and has 72 flats. Its design is very different to Grenfell Tower, which was destroyed by the fire on June 14, but until now it has not had a full sprinkler system.

Next Tuesday, members of Ipswich Borough Council’s executive committee are expected to accept a recommendation that sprinklers should be fitted throughout the building at a cost of £183,624. It would come from the council’s housing revenue account, which pays for the authority’s housing stock.

Portfolio holder for housing, Neil MacDonald, said the council had checked the safety of Cumberland Towers in the wake of the Grenfell disaster – and there had been extra fire exercises to check on safety issues.

It was safe – however the one thing that could improve safety even further was installing a full sprinkler system.

Housing spokesman Neil Macdonald.

Housing spokesman Neil Macdonald. - Credit: Contributed

He said: “This is important both to improve the safety of the building and to provide reassurance to our tenants. This is their home and they need to be able to feel secure here.”

The council would ensure that the system covered all areas of the block and that it was reliable. The sprinklers would only go off if they detected both heat and smoke to avoid the danger of people being drenched if they simply burned their toast.

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The council will try to get some government support to help cover the cost of the sprinkler system but it was determined to go ahead with the installation whether or not it got financial help.

Cumberland Towers was built in the 1960s as a block to be used by tenants of all ages – but it was converted into sheltered homes in the 1990s because most younger families wanted to live in homes with access to gardens.

Cumberland Towers

Cumberland Towers - Credit: Archant

Suffolk’s Chief Fire Officer, Mark Hardingham, said: “Sprinklers are the most effective way to ensure that fires are suppressed or even extinguished before the fire service can arrive.

“It’s great to hear that the borough council is looking to provide sprinklers for the residents of Cumberland Towers. They save lives and reduce injuries, protect firefighters who attend incidents and reduce the amount of damage to both property and the environment from fire.”

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