Potentially lifesaving safety sprinkler systems will be dropped from some new Angus Council housing after the authority agreed a partial switch to ‘off-the-shelf’ properties to bolster its stock.
A £3 million spend on 22 new homes at a site in Monifieth will be part of an innovative approach to helping the authority meet a target of 300 houses over five years.
The move was approved by a special committee set up to keep the council’s decision-making going during Covid-19 lockdown, but non-administration councillors have complained about being kept in the dark over the plan.
Officials have also admitted the switch to developer-built properties will also mean different standards in some houses – including an absence of fire sprinkler systems which Angus introduced for new builds over a decade ago in a strategy hailed by fire service chiefs.
Housing manager John Morrow said the housing development plan had been brought to the Special Arrangements Committee to keep the programme rolling and stimulate growth in the local construction sector to help post-pandemic recovery.
The Monifieth houses will be 10 three-bed and 12 two-bed properties, built to an affordable housing specification, but with no input from the Council on design or standards.
Mr Morrow said: “The simplicity of this is that it allows us to boost affordable housing relatively quickly at a fixed price. Standards would vary depending on the developer and their own particular design specification.”
However, he admitted the absence of sprinkler systems which the council fits to all of its own-build homes would be a “compromise” of the new arrangement.
Sprinkler systems for new Angus council houses were brought in following a dramatic demonstration of their effectiveness when they were installed to void Forfar flats set alight in controlled fire service operation almost 15 years ago.
London’s Grenfell Tower tragedy of 2017 prompted a suggestion the exercise could be repeated to highlight the safety system’s importance as councillors considered a major redevelopment of Arbroath’s Timmergreens housing scheme.
Montrose SNP councillor Bill Duff told the special arrangements committee: “While I understand some of the reasons why this has been brought forward, our group is concerned there has been no consultation with local members and they are not best pleased about it.
“Sprinkler systems had always been seen as something Angus did as a positive move.
“We are not being negative. We acknowledge the officers have come up with an imaginative programme of delivering houses and the argument about stimulating the economy is a valid one, but there are concerns,” said Mr Duff.
Arbroath administration member, Conservative Derek Wann said: “I believe this is a great initiative and I don’t think Mr Morrow would be buying any houses for Angus Council that he didn’t think would be up to scratch.”