Agenda item

Notice of Motion: Fire Sprinklers

To consider the Notice of Motion proposed at Council on 20 July 2022 in relation to the fitting of sprinklers in buildings in the borough.



Councillor Nick Mannion attended the meeting as the original proposer of the Notice of Motion at full Council on 20 July 2022 and introduced the item to the Committee.

The Committee was advised that all Fire Authority Members had voted in favour of the motion, the other 3 Local Authorities within the Cheshire Fire and Rescue boundary (Cheshire West and Chester, Halton and Warrington) had formally adopted the motion through their own governance systems. 

The Committee was advised that sprinklers work and save lives and give Blue Light Services time to get to a fire without catastrophic consequences.

Visiting Councillor Sally Handley addressed the Committee and noted that the Beechmere fire in Crewe was a tragedy and the ongoing impacts on the victims and families needed to be kept at the forefront of minds of Members when making any decisions.

During the Beechmere Fire on 8 August 2019, 137 homes and contents were destroyed.  Councillor Handley paid tribute to the actions of Care workers, residents and emergency services in helping mitigate a worse tragedy.

Councillor Handley has been part of a campaign for sprinklers to be mandatory in all specialist care homes across Cheshire East, she noted that potentially, had Beechmere had a comprehensive sprinkler system the outcome of the fire would have been different.

Councillor Handley noted that formal adoption of this motion into planning policy would be positive for residents and was in favour of the recommendation.

Visiting Councillor Anthony Critchley addressed the Committee, he noted that the Beechmere fire in Crewe was a major incident that occurred in August 2019 and displaced approximately 150 residents from their homes, the majority older and vulnerable members of the community.

The design of the Beechmere Care Home used a significant amount of timber, however this was covered by the building regulations of the day – with planning permission granted in 2006, 4 years before the Building Regulations 2010 came into force.

Councillor Critchley had read interviews from the aftermath of the fire and noted a quote from Cheshire Fire and Rescue Services advocating for a sprinkler system as an effective method of controlling fires, extinguishing fires and saving lives and property.

Councillor Critchley noted that building regulations were amended last year to include the installation of sprinklers in buildings above 11m in height but consideration is being given to buildings under 11m especially housing those who are vulnerable

Councillor Critchley noted that at a local level, there was the opportunity to shape planning policy that promotes fire safety, and whilst any enforcement would be done through legislation above the scope of the planning Authority, this did not exclude exploration of the potential avenues set out by Officers.

Councillor Critchley suggested that the Committee may wish to seek the support of the Borough's 5 MPs and noted specifically that Dr Kieran Mullan MP is the Vice Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) into Fire Safety.

Councillor Critchley commended the efforts of Cheshire Fire and Rescue not just for the work they do around sprinklers but the wider remit of their work to help protect lives.

Lee McGarity, Group Manager, Cheshire Fire and Rescue (CFR) attended the meeting, he endorsed the comments of both Visiting Members and noted that the evidence base for sprinklers was extensive and advocated for them across all buildings especially those housing those vulnerable or most at risk.

The Committee were given the opportunity to ask questions.  Clarity was sought about how sprinklers operated.  The Group Manager, CFR noted that sprinklers are localised to where a fire was located.  At most two sprinklers would go off at any one time.  It was noted that in the past insurance companies were not in favour of sprinklers, but now people might see a reduction in policies if they were fitted.

The Chair reminded the Committee of the recommendations and what the Committee were being asked to decide.

There was some consideration to gain the support of the 5 MPs across the Cheshire Fire and Rescue footprint.  It was noted that Dr. Kieran Mullan MP was currently taking part in work on this subject area.

There was some discussion on the potential need to retrofit existing properties in existence particularly as Beechmere was one of five care homes in overall responsibility of Cheshire East and Cheshire West and Chester.  The Council had a statutory responsibility to provide homes and housing for care home residents and the cost of housing those affected by Beechmere had been significant.

There was some discussion about how sprinklers could be included as part of Planning policy. David Malcolm, Head of Planning advised the Committee that this could be explored within the Local Plan Update. 

RESOLVED (Unanimously) That:

a)    the national legislation and regulations that promote and enforce fire safety in buildings be received and noted;

b)    local policy options to promote and secure the fitting of sprinklers in the above building types when they are built, or if they undergo a major refurbishment, be explored by Cheshire East Council;

c)    the Secretary of State for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and local Members of Parliament be written to by Cheshire East Council to promote changes to the law to require sprinklers in at least the above building types;

d)    The Secretary of State for the Department for Education be written to by Cheshire East Council to strongly oppose the proposed removal of sprinkler provisions from the revision of the design guide for fire safety in schools (Building Bulletin 100) and to request that the requirement for sprinklers in schools is strengthened rather than removed;

e)    Work be pursued through Dr. Kieran Mullan MP and the other 4 MPs covering the Cheshire Fire and Rescue footprint, to support changes in the legislation that would allow additional fire safety precautions in Houses of Multiple Occupancy (HMOs) and buildings under 11m.


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