The cost of fire safety works at a block of flats in Reading, including installing sprinklers, are set to rise by £850,000 after just one provider bid for the contract.

Reading Borough Council (RBC) committed in February 2018 to spend up to £2.5m on improving fire safety regulations at Coley High Rise Tower Blocks, following the Grenfell Fire tragedy.

The estimated cost for the works at the three 15-storey tower blocks, on Wensley Road, has risen to up to £3.35 million after only one offer was received – from United Living for the sum of £3,354,375.

Works, which include replacing the water storage facility and installing sprinkler systems in the 267 flats, are anticipated to be completed by July 2020.

A shortage of available contractors due increased demand post-Grenfell has pushed up costs, according to the report for the Monday, April 8, meeting.

The report states: “A retendering exercise could be undertaken, however, considering feedback received from suppliers after the procurement exercise, it is unlikely that we would receive a better response or a cheaper tender.

“Given the urgent nature of the works it is not an option to wait to see if the market will rebalance at a future date.”

A council housing review by fire safety specialist firm FireSkills, following the Grenfell Tower fire, recommended that the council install sprinkler systems in Coley High Rise flats.

The council will replace the water storage faciility, mains water supplies and distribution pipe work at the same time.

RBC also approved a new ground level water storage tank and pumping station.

The systems have reached their operational lifespan and need to be replaced, according to the council.

The council and United Living will now enter into a ‘value engineering exercise’ – where they try to find a way of reducing costs without impacting on the quality of the work – if plans are approved by lead councillors next week.

As well as increasing fire safety, RBC expect the works to reduce maintenance costs and the need to access flats to carry out repairs.

The report also states that tenants will have the potential to reduce their ongoing water rate bill.

The £3.35m spend figure includes a contingency or reserve of 10 per cent, which the council says ‘is prudent given the nature and complexity of the works’.

Expenditure would be spread over two financial years – £2.5 million in 2019/20 and £850,000 in 2020/21.

The extra £850,000 will come out of the council’s Housing Capital budget.

As part of its housing stock, the council also has four 8-storey blocks in Granville Road, Southcote, which were not recommended for sprinkler installation.

Neither the Coley nor the Granville Road buildings have cladding similar to Grenfell Tower.