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Looking after the safety of tower block tenants

The tragedy at Grenfell Tower has forced all owners of high rise buildings to take stock, writes Ipswich Council Leader, David Ellesmere.

In Ipswich, the Borough Council only owns one tower block, Cumberland Towers, one of the Borough's sheltered housing schemes.


This block is of a very different construction to Grenfell Tower. There is also no gas supply to the building which removes a significant potential fire risk.

Cumberland Towers conforms to all current fire safety and building control regulations.

The block does not have the same aluminium composite cladding with an airgap between it and the building as used in Grenfell Tower.

Current works to the tower will add cladding to improve insulation but this will be mineral wool applied to the face of the building and finished with render. This has a high fire protection rating and conforms to BSI standards.

All flats have smoke alarms and there are regular fire drills. Each flat has a minimum of 60 minutes fire protection.

The fire service uses Cumberland Towers for training and so is well acquainted with the building.

We are as confident as we can be that Cumberland Towers is a safe place for our residents to live.

The one item of safety equipment Cumberland Towers does not have is a sprinkler system in every flat. This is not a requirement of current fire safety regulations.

However, if Cumberland Towers were built as a new tower block today, it would be required to have a sprinkler system fitted.

It is also a fact that there has not been a single fatality through fire in any tower block that has a sprinkler system fitted.

That’s why we’ve taken the decision to fit a sprinkler system to Cumberland Towers.

This will not come cheap. The cost is in the region of £180,000.

The Government is currently refusing to provide any money towards such works. We have requested funding but are not hopeful. However, we will install the sprinklers regardless of whether the Government makes a contribution or not.

This is absolutely the right thing to do. It will give residents additional peace of mind and ensure that we do not see the horrific events in Kensington repeated in Ipswich.

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