Response to Grenfell Tower fire

MQT on 2017-12-14
Session date: 
December 14, 2017
Question By: 
Navin Shah
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


I welcome your support for the campaign calling for sprinklers to be fitted in all new social housing tower blocks in the lead up to today's anniversary of the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower six months ago.  How will your draft London Plan reassure Londoners living in tower blocks that they will have the 'highest standards' of fire safety and will be as safe and protected as possible?  


Answer for Response to Grenfell Tower fire

Answer for Response to Grenfell Tower fire

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Chair, for reasons you will appreciate, I will give a slightly longer answer to this question than to others today. 


Today marks six months since the devastating fire at Grenfell Tower.  I would like to take, again, this opportunity to remember those 71 people who lost their lives in the tragedy, as well as the many more who have been affected by this horrible event. 


It is absolutely essential that we learn every lesson we can from this terrible tragedy.  I continue to call on the Government to ensure that the Grenfell Public Inquiry reports as soon as possible and the review of fire safety regulations is as full and effective as possible.  I have also asked the Prime Minister to work with me to ensure social housing residents are given a proper voice in future decisions that affect them.  I am also backing the Mirror’s campaign to ensure sprinklers are fitted in social housing blocks across the country.  As I have said before, retrofitting sprinklers is one of the best options for reducing the fire risk in tall buildings.  If the review of building regulations and the independent advisory group determine that sprinklers are required to make buildings safe, then the Government must ensure that councils and other affected organisations are able to finance such a programme as well as other actions to make buildings safe.  My officers are collecting information on the cost of installing sprinklers, recladding and other fire protection measures that would help make existing buildings safer.  This is being used to support work to make the case for further support from Government. 


I am utilising all the limited powers I have to improve fire safety.  My draft London Plan has, for the first time, introduced policy requirements for all new development proposals to achieve the highest standards of fire safety.  This means that in London the fire safety of new developments will be properly considered and planned from the outset, and developers will need to be explicit about how the higher standards will be achieved at planning application stage.  My draft London Plan also contains the requirement that major development proposals should be submitted with a fire statement and independent fire strategy proposed by a third party suitably qualified assessor.  This will provide evidence to show that the higher standards have been met.  It requires all development proposals to be designed to incorporate appropriate features that reduce the risk to life in the event of a fire, be construed in an appropriate way to minimise the risk of fire spread, provide suitable access and equipment for firefighting, and to provide suitable and convenient means of escape for all building users by the provision of fire evacuation lifts benefitting many disabled and older people in particular.  These requirements apply to all development proposals in London and will ensure that, via the planning system, new developments in London achieve the highest standards of fire safety, going beyond minimum standards, incorporating robust emergency evacuation procedures that Londoners can have confidence in using.


Navin Shah AM:  Thank you, Mr Mayor, for a very full and very welcome response.  I welcome your commitment to additional fire safety measures in the new draft London Plan.


Sticking to the new draft London Plan, you state there is a fire statement requirement for major development proposals.  It also mentions installation of sprinklers at an early stage of building design, which is absolutely welcome.  Will this be applicable to medium to high-rise residential buildings?  This is important, you may want to answer this.  Do you think that there may be merit in considering the Welsh example, where there is a compulsory requirement for sprinklers for all residential buildings?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Dealing with your second question first, I do not have powers over existing high-rise buildings.  However, all recently built tower blocks, like all new buildings, must meet modern safety standards.  These include requirements around fire detection alarm systems and sprinklers, ensuring the compartmentalisation of buildings, providing for escape and access for fire and rescue.  I am in favour of any suppression of fire and so it could be mist in a sheltered home for the elderly. 


In relation to your medium rise to high-rise residential buildings, my policy requirements in the draft London Plan are for all new development proposals.  All new developments should achieve the highest form of fire safety at the outset, which is over and above what is done elsewhere.  I will revisit the Welsh example.  If it is the case that the Welsh have something that we could pinch, I am all in favour of stealing things well rather than inventing them badly.  I will see what they are doing, Navin. 


Navin Shah AM:  I have a couple of further questions.  If I may, Mr Mayor, I would like to pursue this outside this MQT with your team.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Of course.  Chair, can I suggest that I arrange for Fiona Twycross [Fiona Twycross AM, Chair, LFEPA] to meet with the Assembly Member to discuss the proposals?


Navin Shah AM:  This is at London Plan level and how the London Plan can help to ensure fire safety.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  The Chair of LFEPA is feeding into Jules [Jules Pipe CBE, Deputy Mayor of Planning, Regeneration and Skills] and the London Plan, and so we will make sure that happens.


Navin Shah AM:  Please, thank you very much.