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Government mulls lowering height for mandatory sprinklers

The government is considering lowering the height at which buildings in England require sprinklers to 18 m, it has announced.

A Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) consultation is looking at the issue, and a document released today said the government’s preferred reduction would be from 30 m to 18 m, which would be consistent with its ban on combustible cladding.

The department said it welcomed suggestions on what alternative threshold would be appropriate.

From next month in Scotland, sprinklers will be mandatory in new flats, and combustible cladding is banned in buildings over 11 m tall.

The MHCLG said it believes the provision of sprinklers will contribute to a “reduction in deaths and serious injuries alongside considerable benefits in terms of property protection”.

The consultation does not cover retro-fitting existing buildings with sprinklers, and an MHCLG spokeswoman said the department had no current plans for such a move.

However, the consultation document added that the review conducted by Judith Hackitt might inform decisions on retro-fitting sprinklers at a future date.

The consultation will run until 28 November 2019.

The government also announced that the application process for the £200m fund for private property owners to remove ACM cladding from their buildings will open on 12 September.

Housing, communities and local government select committee chair Clive Betts welcomed the announcement, stating that the group had been calling for more extensive sprinkler usage in high-rise buildings for “several years”.

But he added: “It is disappointing that there is still no commitment to require the retro-fitting of sprinklers in existing buildings at this height, where structurally feasible. We must ensure that residents are safe in their homes no matter when they were built.”

Secretary of state for housing Robert Jenrick said that he had listened to concerns from residents and building owners and called the new proposals “an important step forward in shaping the future building safety standards”.

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