Fire safety work for Bristol tower blocks to cost £100 million, under new proposals

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Plans to improve fire safety in Bristol's high-rise tower blocks will cost almost £100 million, Bristol City Council has revealed.

It follows two major fires last year in which one resident was killed.

The proposals - which are due to be voted on at a full council meeting in February - will see flammable cladding stripped from more than 30 tower blocks, new sprinkler systems installed, as well as fire alarms.

The work could take up to ten years to complete, and it comes with a warning that council rents will go up and savings will have to be made elsewhere.

Councillor Tom Renhard said: "The money is coming from a few places. Some of it is about a 30 year business plan. So we're looking at what we're doing in that cycle and making sure we are as tight as possible.

"Some of it will come from a rise in rents for council tenants - but all of that rise will go back into the existing council stock. Funds will also be drawn from our reserves and there will be a couple of things we will be stopping or not doing as quickly, like around our garage and laundry refurbishment programmes."

Green Party councillor Tony Dyer says the plans are essential to keep tenants safe and it must be the "highest priority". But he fears the £100 million bill may limit the amount of council homes that will be built in the coming years.

Mr Dyer said: "There are no easy decisions, but it's important residents feel safe going to bed at night and waking up in the morning.

"But at the same time we also have a responsibility for those people who are stuck in housing which is not suitable for them, which they can't afford and where they are overcrowded. We are trying to do both at the same time with the limited resources available to the council

"We were hoping to build more than 2000 homes over the next five years or so. That's now going to be reduced to just over 1700. It means people on the waiting list will have to wait a bit longer."

The estimated costs of the fire safety programme over the next ten years. Credit: Bristol City Council

Resident Shaban Ali lives in Barton House which has a waking watch due to the flammable EPS cladding.

He says he is "ecstatic" about the plans to install sprinklers and remove the cladding. But he admits he is concerned about the proposed 7% rise in council rents to help fund it.

Mr Ali said: "Why should safety cost us? Everyone that lives in a flat or house should be entitled to safe living. It feels like you're giving with one hand and taking with the other. It's harsh, it's harsh."

Mr Ali was part of a campaign spearheaded by the housing charity Acorn which called for drastic improvements on fire safety in the council-run tower blocks following the deadly fire at Twinnell House.

Head organiser at Acorn, Nick Ballard, says these plans must be approved by councillors when the full council meet in February.

Mr Ballard said: "They are huge commitments and we are really pleased to see them. It should not have taken a campaign from Acorn for a widespread review of all the fire safety measures in every tower block in Bristol to get to this stage. But now that it has we are really glad the council is investing in its long-term safety of its residents."