HIGH-RISE residents are urging council bosses to quicken up their decades’ wait for sprinklers in the wake of the devastating Grenfell Tower blaze in London.

Tenants in some of the highest towers in Brighton and Hove are calling for action on the city council’s sprinkler system project as some properties will not be equipped until as late as 2039.

Janet Cotton said the 14-storey St John’s Mount in Brighton, home to her 88-year-old mother Dara Sitford, was a “death trap” and that she had never been more frightened for her mother’s safety.

Conservative housing spokeswoman Mary Mears said funds were available to quicken the pace of the project if the council wished to prioritise it.

Yesterday Prime Minister Theresa May announced a public inquiry into the London blaze after visiting the scene but was criticised for not meeting the 24-storey tower block’s residents.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called for a “proper investigation” into what went wrong.

The Met Police, who have launched a criminal investigation, confirmed six bodies have been recovered from the burnt-out shell and 11 more located inside. The force said the final death toll would be much higher adding that they may not be able to identify all the victims.

Sprinklers in existing buildings are not a legal requirement but were recommended by a coroner for social housing towers of more than 30 metres after high-rise fire deaths in London and Southampton.

Installing sprinklers into the Brighton council’s 50 high-rises for the benefit of nearly 2,400 residents will cost almost £3 million and take at least 25 years.

Elizabeth Dockerill, 71, has lived in her sixth-floor flat in Ecclesden for 29 years. She and her 45 neighbours at the 11-storey block in Grove Hill, Brighton, are not due to benefit from sprinklers until at least 2028/29. She said: “Most definitely, I would like to see sprinklers fitted in much sooner than that.

“If I have to wait until 2028 for the sprinklers I will be dead. For the sake of just £55,000, is that the cost of a life?” Brenda Ancell, 79, who has lived in her fifth-floor flat in Ecclesden for 16 years, said: “It would be good to have the sprinklers much sooner than that. It’s scary being in these flats right now.”

Cllr Mears said: “We have just agreed £1.2 million from the HRA (Housing Revenue Account) reserves for a new ICT system so there is money available, we just need to make sure our priorities are right.”

An East Sussex Fire and Rescue spokeswoman said: “For several years, we have been working closely with local councils and housing groups to promote the installation of sprinklers. A total of £400,000 has been set aside by the service to match fund a number of projects to retro-fit sprinkler systems. We will continue to encourage building managers, owners and developers to install sprinklers where there is a case for doing so and proactively provide advice and support on fire safety.”

A council spokeswoman said: “In response to the tragic events, a meeting is scheduled for Friday afternoon when officers will meet with the fire service to plan our next steps, these may include visits to tower blocks to review safety and reassure residents.”


By Amir Razavi

JANET COTTON is terrified for the safety of her 88-year-old mother Dara Sitford.

Mrs Sitford has lived in her 11th floor flat in St John’s Mount, Brighton, since the 1970s and Ms Cotton says this is “the most frightened she has ever felt”.

“It did make me think of my mum straight away,” said Ms Cotton when she heard about the Grenfell disaster.

“I visit her three times a week and I have thought to myself that there isn’t enough safety measurements in place. I have been meaning to speak to the council to see what can be done about this – it is not right, especially when we are up so high.

“My mum would not have a chance in a fire.

“No way would she be able to get down in time.”

She said sprinklers are now needed in the building, which has 72 flats across 12 floors.

Ms Cotton described the building as a “death trap” and insisted there was not a chance her elderly mother could make it down the 11 flights of stairs in time. She said: “We need something like sprinklers, the system here is quite old.”

Below Ms Cotton’s mother, on the tenth floor, is Khadija Qaasim, who lives with her four young children.

Mrs Qaasim was in a similar state of anxiety yesterday.

She said: “Last night I didn’t get to sleep. A lot of families live in these tower blocks, with little kids like me.

“I want the council to fix this quickly – we need sprinklers now.”

Mrs Qaasim, 29, was perplexed as to how the council could hold back until 2025 – at the earliest – to install what she regards as essential.

“This is for the safety of people’s lives, there is nothing more important than that.

“I don’t understand how we can be expected to wait that long. I am already looking for somewhere else to move.”

Ceri Pullen visits her grandfather Frank Wassall most days of the week, often taking her children with her.

Miss Pullen, 27, said that sprinklers in his ninth floor flat would ease her concerns.

She said: “It does worry me that I can’t feel comfort in a family home now.

“A while ago my dad fell asleep with a cigarette lit and it burnt his hair off.

“Luckily, nothing worse happened, but it shows that one little accident can cause a big one.

“More should be done to improve the safety of the buildings when you look at what happened in London.”

Her grandfather Mr Wassall, lives in the flat with his wife Deborah.

Mr Wassall, 67, said: “My wife has been in bits since she heard about the London tower block burning down.

“It is absolutely ridiculous that we have to wait so long to get extra safety equipment put in here.

“It makes you wonder where the money is going to be honest.”


REASSURANCES are being sought about the cladding of high rises after modifications to the Grenfell Tower’s exterior was suggested as a possible cause for the deadly blaze’s ferocity.

Brighton and Hove City Council and contractor Mears have been regenerating the city’s ageing housing stock through a multi-million pound scheme, though some residents have successfully opposed the work at their homes.

Conservative housing lead Mary Mears has called on the council to release fire certificates for the work to reassure residents while Green convenor Phélim MacCafferty has asked for a full audit of materials used.

Globally, flammable cladding has been blamed for helping severe fires spread rapidly, including in a Melbourne tower block in 2014.

A Parliamentary committee inquiry in 2000, launched after a deadly 14-storey tower blaze in Scotland, concluded cladding should be non-combustible.

The Bostik Climatherm render system, proposed for Tyson Place and Mount Pleasant in Brighton and rejected at planning in March, uses polystyrene insulation not classified as non-combustible.

High-rise resident and campaigner Valerie Paynter said: “It is just foam with a fine nail polish of paint on top. Everything is made of plastic and foam, we are building for fires.”

Resident campaigner Dave Croydon said: “If the council can reassure residents about the safety of their cladding, they should be doing that now. Cladding may seem like a good idea but I rather they did it in 100 years time when they have stood the test of time.”