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Byker Community Trust (BCT) housing association has commenced works to retrofit a new sprinkler system at Tom Collins House on the iconic Grade II* listed Byker Estate in Newcastle upon Tyne.

Tom Collins House is believed to be one of the first high-rise buildings in the region to benefit from the full installation of a new sprinkler system in response to the Grenfell Tower tragedy last year. Works to the 12-story high building started on site this month.

The installation of the new sprinkler system is part of a wider programme of modernisation and regeneration works that are being undertaken at Tom Collins House and Mount Pleasant sheltered housing schemes on the Byker Estate. The schemes will benefit from £1.65m worth of improvements including full painting and decorating, upgrading of the communal landlord services, including fire safety works, plus other external repairs and improvements to communal gardens.

In addition to the new sprinkler system, work is also underway to replace the external wall panels. The cladding at Tom Collins House is being renewed due to its age and condition, as it is the original cladding from when it was built in the early 1970’s and is not the problematic Aluminium Composite Material (ACM). None of the buildings owned by BCT are fitted with ACM, which was the same type of cladding installed externally on Grenfell Tower.

All residents living in both sheltered housing schemes were consulted on the plans and the schedule of works that will be undertaken. Listed building consent and planning permission has been granted by Newcastle City Council.

Located within the Byker Wall Estate, Tom Collins House was built between 1975 and 1978 to a masterplan designed by the architect Ralph Erskine and comprises of 39 homes. Mount Pleasant was developed between 1978 and 1980 and comprises of 24 homes. All works that are undertaken to the two listed assets will comply with the Byker Heritage Partnership Agreement and Historic England guidelines.

Jill Haley, Chief Executive of Byker Community Trust said, “The official transfer offer document to tenants, from when the Estate was transferred from Newcastle City Council to BCT, included a number of specific promises relating to investment on the Estate.

“Since July 2012, BCT has invested £26.7m worth of improvements and we are still continuing to invest in our Estate with these external and communal upgrade works to our two sheltered housing schemes. Despite the fact that it is not a mandatory requirement of current building regulations, the sprinkler system is being installed as an additional safety measure for our tenants.

“We believe that the installation of a retrofit sprinkler system to a high-rise building may be the first in the region since the Grenfell Tower tragedy. There are other schemes in planning but we are not aware of any where the works have actually started on site.”

The external and communal works contract has been awarded to Esh Property Services and works are expected to be completed this autumn 2018.

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