GWSF urges caution on mandatory sprinklers plan

David Bookbinder

The benefits and costs of installing sprinklers in social housing need to be weighed against the many other pressures on the rents tenants pay, according to the Glasgow and West of Scotland Forum of Housing Associations (GWSF).

The note of caution comes as a consultation on a potential private members bill from Highlands MSP David Stewart has just closed. Mr Stewart is proposing sprinklers in all new build social housing, and also consulted on retrofitting sprinklers in existing high rise housing in the social sector.

GWSF says fire safety is of great importance to community based housing associations, but that in the wake of the Grenfell tragedy it can be easy to overlook other pressures such as from loss of income as a result of Universal Credit.

GWSF director David Bookbinder said: “The proposed bill is clearly well intended, but this is a complex issue and decisions shouldn’t be rushed. Housing associations are already looking at how they will fund the new standard on smoke and heat alarms over a very short implementation period of two years.

“If sprinklers were to be required in new build, then the strong expectation is that grant would increase. But grant only ever covers a proportion of the cost, with the remainder coming from loans funded by rents. For retrofit, apart from the technical challenges, the costs would almost certainly be paid by tenants, and the issue of covering owners’ costs in mixed tenure high rise would have to be properly addressed.

“We recognise that there may be a greater prevalence of fires in social housing, but we’re not comfortable with the notion that protection in other tenures might be inferior to that in social housing.”

GWSF’s response to the consultation from David Stewart MSP can be seen here.

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