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Sprinkler Systems in Public Sector Housing 22 July 2010

The Department of Social Care wishes to respond to a news release issued today by Douglas Borough Council regarding the possible installation of sprinkler systems into new public sector houses.

Minister for Social Care Hon Martyn Quayle MHK said:

The Department of Infrastructure’s Office of Building Control are the experts in this matter. Their Building Regulations do not require sprinkler systems for new domestic houses; nor does any other jurisdiction in the British Isles at this time.
I can assure Douglas Borough Council should any change in the Building Regulations take place my Department is happy to revise our house building programme and costings accordingly.
Much careful consideration is being given to this issue currently. Therefore it would be premature for my Department to amend policy at this time before this work is concluded.
I am sure that the Department of Infrastructure will be happy to receive the views of Douglas Borough Council when this matter is put out for public consultation in due course.
I understand that sprinkler systems for domestic houses cost typically £4,000 to £6,000 per house plus substantial maintenance and replacement costs. I note that Douglas Borough Council is seeking to compel my Department to incur these substantial additional costs at a time when the taxpayer’s money is under great pressure while making no offer to contribute to these costs.
I am disappointed that Douglas Borough Council chose to issue this news release without first attempting to contact me or my Political Member for Housing Mr Henderson MHK to discuss this matter.
My Department takes fire safety as well as the quality of construction of public sector housing extremely seriously.
My Department is committed to a house building programme costing £130m over the next 5 years which will substantially improve the quality, safety and range of public sector and first-time buyers housing.

The standard of fire safety in a property is determined by the Building Regulations, which apply to all Isle of Man property, regardless of whether it is publicly or privately owned.

Current regulations dictate sprinklers are fitted to all new build property in the following categories: residential homes, buildings containing flats, sheltered housing, multiple occupancy dwellings, hospitals, nursing homes and schools.

New domestic houses do not require sprinklers (other than some open plan dwellings). This is due to a range of reasons including the difficulties in ensuring such systems are properly maintained within domestic houses.

The matter of sprinkler systems in domestic dwellings is currently under analysis by the Office of Building Control in the Department of Infrastructure, working closely with the Department of Social Care, the Department of Home Affairs and the Isle of Man Fire Service.

This is an important matter where a range of issues must be resolved before any changes to Building Regulations can be made.

These issues include how such systems can be maintained, insurance requirements as well as the implications for the local construction industry.

The Department of Social Care understands that the Department of Infrastructure hopes to publicly consult on this matter in 2011 with any subsequent changes being made in 2012 or thereafter.

This would give adequate time for all stakeholders to be involved and then to prepare for any changes. It is important any change is made at a national level to ensure the standard of safety in new build property is consistent across all domestic dwellings.

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