Gentoo to ‘look at’ installing sprinklers in Sunderland high-rise blocks following Grenfell Tower tragedy

Gentoo remove cladding from flats at Church Street North, Sunderland.
Gentoo remove cladding from flats at Church Street North, Sunderland.

Gentoo bosses say they will “look at” installing sprinkler systems in its high-rise blocks in Sunderland in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster.

The social housing company is also working on plans to replace the exterior panels of the buildings.

D'Arcy Court, Hendon, Sunderland

D'Arcy Court, Hendon, Sunderland

Currently, just one of the 26 tower blocks on Wearside in Gentoo’s ownership has sprinklers installed – a system was fitted to D’Arcy Court, in Hendon, during recent, planned refurbishment works.

Gentoo’s deputy director of asset strategy, Conan McKinley, said: “Gentoo has made a commitment to look at installing sprinkler systems as part of our future refurbishment programmes in our tower blocks and we are also currently drawing up draft plans to replace our panels.

“Clearly the outcome of the Grenfell Tower investigation will expedite these plans.”

At least 80 people were confirmed or presumed dead following the disastrous fire at Grenfell Tower in South Kensington, on June 14.

Gentoo has made a commitment to look at installing sprinkler systems as part of our future refurbishment programmes in our tower blocks and we are also currently drawing up draft plans to replace our panels

Conan McKinley, deputy director of asset strategy at Gentoo

The aluminium composite cladding which was fitted during a refurbishment is believed to have accelerated the spread of the fire. No automatic sprinkler system had been fitted at Grenfell.

Gentoo has previously confirmed that none of its tower block have the same cladding and insulation as appears to have been on Grenfell Tower.

Despite this, five blocks of high-rise flats in the St Peter’s area of Sunderland had cladding removed after it failed fire safety tests.

The highest safety score available in the testing is 0, and the lowest is 3 - which is what some of the cladding on the Sunderland flats was rated as.

Gentoo remove cladding from flats at Church Street North, Sunderland.

Gentoo remove cladding from flats at Church Street North, Sunderland.

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) confirmed that the panels had failed combustibility tests carried out by the Building Research Establishment.

Church Street, Dock Street, Zetland, Victor and Dame Dorothy had decorative panels removed following the results of tests.

Those living in the Sunderland flats have been visited by housing representatives to ease any fears they might have had.

Gentoo also said they work very closely with the fire brigade in the city and crews often use the tower blocks for fire-fighting exercises. The company also has a concierge service so tenants know they can contact someone 24 hours a day and anyone with a disability is never housed above the fourth floor.

The flats’ fire alarms are also linked into a control room, so someone is alerted whenever smoke or fire breaks out in one of the flats.