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New fire sprinklers not to be installed in Rathcoole tower block

The Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) has confirmed that Monkscoole House in Rathcoole will miss out on fire sprinkler systems being fitted as part of an £8m programme.

The Housing Executive’s Board has agreed that fire sprinkler systems will be fitted in over 30 of its high rise blocks, beginning in 2021.

Residents of 31 tower blocks are being informed this week about the installation of the new safety measures.

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However, the housing authority has stated the programme will not be rolled out in Rathcoole’s Monkscoole House as it is earmarked for demolition.

The programme will not be rolled out in Rathcoole’s Monkscoole House as it is earmarked for demolition.

Speaking to the Times, a spokesperson for the NIHE said: “I can confirm that all tower blocks in our North Region are included in the sprinkler scheme, apart from those designated for demolition, ie, Monkscoole House and Latharna House (Larne).”

Over the summer, elected members on Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council called on then Department for Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey to intervene to save Abbotscoole House, Carncoole House, Monkscoole House and Glencoole House.

The local authority also called for “sufficient finance to be made available to the Northern Ireland Housing Executive for refurbishment of these properties” in recognition of the “housing need in north Belfast”.

Monkscoole House is unoccupied after closing late last year and has been earmarked for demolition. The Housing Executive also proposes to demolish the adjacent Abbotscoole House. Both will require Departmental approval of a business case.

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Commenting on the scheme, Paul Isherwood, Director of Asset Management in the Housing Executive, said: “Following the Grenfell tower tragedy in June 2017, we immediately inspected each of our tower blocks, updated their risk assessments and ensured that necessary safety measures were in place.

“We also set up an independent reference group to review all aspects of fire safety in the organisation’s tower blocks and take into account any lessons from the Grenfell fire tragedy.

“While we believe that our fire safety arrangements are robust, the installation of sprinklers will further enhance safety and provide additional reassurance to residents.

“At present there is no statutory requirement for the installation of sprinklers in existing buildings, however, there is a view that building owners should not wait for the regulatory system to be reformed before carrying out any necessary fire safety measures.

“This is a major programme of work, which will take around two years to complete.”

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