Actions to ensure fire safety in Sutton homes

Cllr Jayne McCoy
Cllr Jayne McCoy

Published Friday, 1st October 2021

Fire safety was a key item on the Housing, Economy and Business Committee meeting held on Tuesday this week.

Fire safety was a key item on the Housing, Economy and Business Committee meeting held on Tuesday this week.

The council has a responsibility towards its social housing tenants as a landlord, and a regulatory responsibility in respect of the private sector. Both these roles have expanded as a result of legislation and learning since the Grenfell tragedy.

Immediately following Grenfell, Sutton Housing Partnership (SHP) employed fire safety assessors to inspect its taller buildings, prioritising those with cladding. Although fortunately the cladding did not require removal and replacement, other issues were found that required remediation. SHP has been working through addressing all these issues including fitting new sprinkler systems, fire doors and implementing policies to keep escape routes clear.

As a regulatory body the council has worked to ensure the private sector is undertaking similar fire risk assessments on tall buildings, removing unsafe cladding and undertaking necessary remediation works.

The council has also worked closely and productively with the borough fire service, following its advice to focus its work and improve safety.

The fire in a housing association block in Worcester Park saw the council step in to assist residents displaced by the fire, and helped shape the council and fire services responses to Government consultations on the need to include buildings below 18m in new building safety legislation.

That legislation, currently progressing through Parliament, will for the first time require fire safety to be a consideration as part of the planning process. This is a welcome move but will require local authority building control services to increase their skills and capacity.

Highlighted by members at the meeting were the ongoing impacts on residents. From the loss of homes, personal belongings and uncertainty about the future experienced by residents from the Hamptons block that was devastated by fire; the disruption to the lives of others by intrusive and ongoing remediation works; and the financial impacts on those facing the costs of waking watches, fire safety works and inability to sell, many residents are seeing their mental health impacted.

While Sutton Council continues to respond to emerging legislation, now is a once in a generation opportunity for the Government to address the industry and regulatory failings that led to the Grenfell tragedy, and we will continue to lobby to ensure that regulation fully addresses all the building safety risks exposed by recent fires.

Councillor Jayne McCoy