Sprinklers go live in high-rise council block in Brighton

A new sprinkler system went live in a high-rise block of council flats in Brighton today (Wednesday 16 November).

The sprinklers for Somerset Point cost £145,000. The 13-storey sheltered housing block in Somerset Street, Kemp Town, contains 72 flats.


The bill is being split between Brighton and Hove City Council and East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service.

This afternoon councillors agreed to put in sprinklers at another council-owned block, St James’ House, and asked officials to prepare a business case for a third block, Essex Place.


Somerset Point

In February community campaigner Chris Cooke died in a fire at Essex Place, one of two fires in the block this year.

It was not suggested that sprinklers would have saved Mr Cooke but they could have made it easier for firefighters to put out the blaze and reduced the cost of the damage.

The council’s Housing and New Homes Committee heard this afternoon that the council had spent at least £120,000 on repairs after four fires in its 43 high-rise blocks this year alone.

Sprinklers were likely to put out some fires before they took hold and limit the spread of others, members were told. This would reduce the risk to residents’ lives and firefighters’ lives and cut the cost of any repairs.

Richard Fowler, from East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Firefighting in high-rise buildings is extremely hazardous. It’s a dangerous occupation for us.”

Sprinklers, he said, would make it less likely that a building’s structure would collapse.

St James’ House is a 16-storey block with 120 flats, in High Street, Brighton, and Essex Place is a 17-storey block with 128 flats, in Montague Place, Brighton.

The council and fire service hope that more of the 43 high-rise blocks can be looked at – and the money found – if these schemes prove successful.

This could take more than 20 years and cost about £3 million. It would come after the council has already spent £1.5 million on improving fire safety measures after changes to the law.

Sprinklers are not required by law but deaths in high-rise buildings elsewhere have prompted fresh guidance.


Essex Place in Brighton

Essex Place in Brighton

The council said: “The pilot installation of the sprinkler system at Somerset Point has been a great success and our tenants have told us they are very satisfied with the system.

An ESFRS spokeswoman said initially there is £400,000 set aside for match funded sprinkler projects to cover East Sussex and Brighton and Hove.

She added this was in addition to preventative work in fitting smoke alarms and carrying out inspections of properties.

A report to councillors said: “Blocks identified for enhancement / improvement of fire safety measures derive from fire service advice on where such additional measures are best applied.

“One of the main benefits of installing a sprinkler system is that it reduces the risk of loss of life to residents and fire fighters.

“In addition a sprinkler system would ensure that an outbreak of fire is confined to one small area and reduce damage to the overall unit.

“A tenant satisfaction survey was completed (at Somerset Point) which demonstrated a high satisfaction rate where most residents gave a satisfaction rate of nine or ten out of ten.”