Just two per cent of UK’s council tower blocks have full sprinkler system

Only two per cent of the UK’s council and housing association-owned tower blocks have full sprinkler systems, a BBC Breakfast investigation has found.

Of those, 68 per cent have just one staircase through which to evacuate.

The BBC questioned 56 local authorities and housing associations in towns and cities across the UK with requests under the Freedom of Information act, for high-rise properties for which they hold the freehold. The responses covered around half of the UK’s estimated 4,000 tower blocks.

London’s fire commissioner says the Grenfell Tower fire must be a ‘turning point’ and has called for sprinklers in all high-rise council buildings.

The Department for Communities and Local Government says it will consider whether to retrofit sprinklers based on a public inquiry’s recommendations.

The public inquiry will look at the causes of the fire, the adequacy of high-rise regulations, Grenfell Tower’s refurbishment, and the actions of public authorities before and after the tragedy.

In 2007, sprinklers were made compulsory in new-build high rises over 30 metres tall in England. The requirement was not applied retroactively so did not apply to Grenfell Tower, built in 1974.

Scotland has stronger regulation than England, with new residential buildings taller than 18 metres requiring sprinklers.

Dany Cotton, commissioner of the London Fire Brigade, said: “I think Grenfell should be a turning point.

"I support retrofitting - for me where you can save one life then it's worth doing.

"This can't be optional, it can't be a nice to have, this is something that must happen.

"If that isn't one of the recommendations (of the Grenfell Tower inquiry) then I will be so very disappointed."

Croydon Council has made the decision to retrofit sprinklers in its 25 high-rise blocks at a cost of £10 million.

Alison Butler, Croydon’s deputy leader and cabinet member for homes, regeneration and planning, said: “Grenfell changed everything. It was horrifying.

"It brings home to you as a council that there are a lot of things you do, but this one is about saving lives."

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