Sprinklers will be installed at Northampton flat block following pressure from tenants over fire safety fears

A Northampton high rise flat block is having sprinklers installed as "extra reassurance" for residents following the Grenfell Tower fire.

Monday, 26th June 2017, 7:47 pm
Updated Tuesday, 12th September 2017, 11:35 am
St Katherine's Court was recladded in March.

In the past fortnight, there has been mounting pressure for social housing providers across the UK to install sprinkler systems in their high rises following the devastating blaze in London.

Locally, Northampton Partnership Homes has faced similar calls from opposition groups on the borough council. Campaign group Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) were also planning a protest on July 10.

But the management company has now announced it will have the system installed at St Katherine's Court, in St Katherine's Street, by autumn.

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It also comes after the nine-storey building received new cladding in a major facelift in March, leading to concerns from tenants over the flat block's fire safety.

A spokesman from Northampton Partnership Homes said: "Since the tragedy at Grenfell Tower, our first priority has been to check and review our own fire safety arrangements.

"We want to offer extra reassurance to our residents that their safety is our top priority. We’re pleased to confirm that although we are not required by law to install them, we have already contracted to install a sprinkler system in the fire exits and communal areas of St Katherine's Court."

On June 14, an estimated 79 people died when a fire engulfed the Grenfell Tower council flat in London.

It is believed the spread of the fire was aided by the building's flammable cladding, which has led to hundreds of blocks now being tested across England.

St Katherine's Court, in Northampton, was recladded during renovation works in March, leading to fears from residents that it needed to be tested.

A spokesman from Northampton Partnership Homes said: "There has been a lot of speculation regarding our refurbishment works at St Katherines Court.

"We have checked with our contractors and suppliers and have confirmed that the cladding being installed at St Katherines Court is not the same as at Grenfell Tower.

"The cladding is a layered composite enamel that is deemed a non-risk product and is not required to be submitted for testing.

"We are therefore wholly satisfied that as well as being fully compliant with current regulations, our approach to fire safety offers us full assurance."

The Government plan to test cladding from 600 blocks across England, the BBC has reported. So far, dozens have been discovered to have flammable or unsafe cladding.

STOP here?

As the tests on cladding continue, the Chronicle & Echo asked the organisations behind Northampton's cladded buildings if they would be testing the fire safety of their facades.

St John's Hall, a University of Northampton student accommodation block in St john's Street, was opened in 2013 and features over 460 student bedrooms and has exterior cladding.

A spokesman from University of Northampton said: "We have been in contact with the contractors who built the halls. If necessary, we will test the cladding.

"We should stress the situation at St John’s is completely different from that at Grenfell Tower, in that St john's is a low-rise building and that our fire escape policy is for an entire core to be evacuated.

"It is extremely unlikely that we would see the type of flame spread at Grenfell Tower on St John’s due to the large areas of masonry present.

"We will review the outcome of the Grenfell Tower investigation and make any necessary amendments to our procedures should these prove necessary.

PA Housing's Newlife Building 2, one of two flat blocks in Lower Cross Street, was evacuated in January after a major fire on the fifth floor.

A spokesman for PA Housing said: "Both of our towers were fully refurbished in 2006 and have brick slip and render cladding, which is not flammable in any way. The insulation used is rock wool, which is not flammable and is designed to prevent the spread of fire.

"We have no plans [to install sprinkers] at the moment but we will continue to review the situation in line with legislation and fire safety guidance."

All three Northampton College campus buildings, including one in Booth Lane, one in Lower Mounts and one in Daventry, are finished with cladding.

A spokeswoman for Northampton College said: "All cladding at Northampton College sites in Booth Lane, Lower Mounts and Daventry is fully compliant with fire regulations and health and safety standards."

Northampton Railway Station was also reopened in 2015 after a £20m renovation XX

A spokesman for Network Rail said: “The materials used to clad Northampton station are fully compliant with building regulations.” Materials used are glass, granite tiles and insulated steel."

Premier Inns: “The safety and security of our guests and team members is our number one priority. We have been assured by an independent fire expert that all our hotels are safe to operate and that we have robust fire safety measures and evacuation procedures in place to protect our guests and teams. These include sophisticated fire detectors and fire alarms in every single bedroom; all bedroom doors are fire resisting and self-closing to prevent fire spreading; all corridors are sub-divided by fire resistant doors; our hotels have multiple means of escape, and our well trained teams evacuate a hotel at the first sign of fire.

“We can confirm that the cladding on these hotels is not the same as the cladding used on Grenfell Tower.”