SHADOW Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer MP was in Newcastle to celebrate the regeneration of two sheltered housing schemes on the Grade II* Byker Wall Estate.
Sir Keir did the honours, cutting the ribbon to officially open the two schemes following their £1.87 million regeneration.
Both Tom Collins House and Mount Pleasant, which are owned by the Byker Community Trust (BCT) housing association, have benefited from external and communal upgrades.
This included the retrofitting of a sprinkler system at Tom Collins House, making it one of the first high-rise buildings in the North East to complete the installation of a new sprinkler system following the Grenfell Tower tragedy last year.
Alongside the fire safety improvements, the upgrade works have included structural works to balconies, external painting, improvements to address ongoing maintenance issues, health and safety measures, an upgrade of communal landlord services and a full modernisation of all communal areas and furnishings for both housing schemes.
“We are delighted that Sir Keir Starmer MP has taken the time to visit us in Byker, to help us celebrate the completion of the project with our tenants and to recognise the contribution and hard work of all of the project partners involved,” said BCT’s chief executive, Jill Haley.
BCT completed the works in partnership with Esh Property Services, Storm Tempest, Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS), Yorkshire Building Society, Newcastle City Council and Historic England.
“Every day, people die and are injured in fires in the UK. The most recent government statistics state that the total annual cost of fire in England is an estimated £8.3 billion,” said John Baines, assistant chief officer at TWFRS.
“I am delighted that Byker Community Trust has chosen to install an automatic fire sprinkler system at Tom Collins House. This is a progressive step in enhancing fire safety for the residents of Newcastle and is the first residential high rise in the city to retrofit fire sprinklers.
“Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service promotes the fitting of fire sprinklers in new buildings as part of an effective fire safety solution and also retro-fitting fire sprinklers in existing buildings, on a risk assessed basis.
“Quite simply, fire sprinklers save lives, reduce injuries, improve firefighter safety and protect homes and businesses, which in turn supports the economy and protects the environment.
“I would encourage all housing providers and businesses to consider installing sprinklers to protect residents, the general public and staff in their buildings, which in turn also supports the safety of our firefighters.”
Haley added: “We were enthusiastic to work with TWFRS and other partners on this regeneration project, the aim was not simply to modernise our sheltered housing schemes but to also improve the lives and safety of the people who live within them.
“To make sure that the residents would benefit as much as possible, they were consulted on the regeneration proposals right from the start of the process and were able to influence the works. For example, BCT engaged the services of an Interior Designer who consulted with the residents in both schemes, and they were able to give their views on artwork and design themes which have now been applied to the communal areas.”
Located within the Byker Wall Estate, Tom Collins House comprises of 39 homes and was built between 1975 and 1978 to a masterplan designed by the renowned architect Ralph Erskine. Mount Pleasant was developed between 1978 and 1980 and comprises of 24 homes. All works that were undertaken to the two Grade II* listed assets complied with the Byker Heritage Partnership Agreement and Newcastle City Council and Historic England guidelines.