Wandsworth’s Council’s plan to charge its leaseholders for retrofitting sprinklers into all of its tall tower blocks was left in tatters after a court struck out the case.

Just before Christmas last year, the First Tier Tribunal (FTT) - the court that decides property-related issues - threw the case out agreeing with leaseholders and supporting opposition councillors that each block should be assessed individually and that leaseholders could not be charged “under this case” for installation.

The council took the case to court after many leaseholders expressed their opposition to the plan and the costs.

Councillor Claire Gilbert, who represents Roehampton, the area with most of Wandsworth’s tall blocks, said: “Instead of engaging with residents directly to reassure them, the council’s actions caused significant anxiety and fear over whether people’s homes are currently safe.

“Court papers from the council used phrases like 'urgent' and 'necessity' around sprinklers and this was alarming to many residents.

"Wandsworth then caused further anxiety by insisting on taking the issue to court, leading residents to seek their own support and advice on the case.”

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Following the Grenfell Tower fire there was widespread national agreement that fire safety needed to be reviewed. Wandsworth Council decided to introduce sprinklers into all of its tall towers (10 stories of more). The move would have seen water sprinklers installed in all homes in the 100 blocks Wandsworth runs which are 30m or more high.

Following this, the council looked into the possibility of have the costs of the retrofitting passed on to leaseholders living in their tall towers.

More than 2,600 leaseholders were to receive bills of at least £4000 for the installation, which was estimated to cost £24m in total.

Groups of residents from across the borough came together to oppose the council’s move.

The hearings were heard in October 2018 and more than a year later, residents got the outcome they wanted.

Nigel Pittam, Chairman of the Park Court Residents Association in Battersea said: “The FTT’s rejection of Wandsworth's proposals is great news for our residents.

"Many have been greatly concerned about the cost and disruption of sprinklers.

"For three years we have been pressing for completion of the 2016 Fire Risk Assessment works, so it seemed extraordinary that the council would spend so much time and residents money on pressing ahead with this arbitrary scheme.

Wandsworth Times:

"We hope the council will now ensure we do not have to pay for this wasted work, that it will work with Residents groups to agree and implement sensible fire precautions improvements on a block by block risk analysis, and also reimburse those residents who spent their own money in fighting this proposal.”

A council spokesman said they are considering the merits of an appeal.

"It is disappointing that the tribunal felt unable to provide clarification on behalf of the council and its residents regarding the installation of sprinklers in all of its high rise towers," he said.

"Sprinklers are required by law in all new blocks over 30m due to their proven record on improving fire safety.

"It is perhaps surprising that a tribunal felt unable to consider an application aimed at ensuring that all residents of council tower blocks were entitled to similar levels of fire safety to residents of newly constructed blocks.

"Until primary legislation clarifies these urgent matters a two tier fire safety regime will remain."