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MPs: Building regs changes ‘far too slow’ post Grenfell

18 July 2019 | By Neil Gerrard

Image: Grenfell Tower (Dreamstime)

The government has been “far too slow” in reforming the building and fire safety regime and still isn’t doing enough to remove dangerous cladding from existing buildings, a committee of MPs has warned.

More than two years since the Grenfell Tower fire, a new report from the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee called on the government to recognise the need for urgency.

It also cautioned that the £200m the government has set aside for the remediation of private sector buildings with aluminium composite (ACM) cladding will not be sufficient, and it claimed that the government had also failed to provide funding for other forms of potentially dangerous cladding materials found on hundreds of other residential and high-risk buildings.

And it impressed upon the government that it had a “moral duty” to ensure the removal of all forms of combustible cladding as defined by its own combustible cladding ban.

Regulation

The report also concluded that it was “extremely disappointing” that it has taken two years since the Grenfell Tower fire and a year since the publication of the Hackitt report for the government to announce proposals for the reform of the building safety regulatory system.

It called for the regulatory system to apply to all buildings housing vulnerable people, and go beyond the existing boundary of buildings above 18 metres in height and urged the government to be ambitious in bringing buildings within the scope of the scheme.

Meanwhile, the report said the government was right to propose a new dutyholder regime with individually-held responsibilities across the life-cycle of a building but that it would be challenging to make these roles attractive to qualified individuals and that the government must avoid any additional associated costs being passed on to leaseholders. It also urged the government to clarify that it is the building owner who should always be ultimately accountable for building safety.

A new regulatory regime must provide greater accountability, robust oversight and strong sanctions, whilst also giving greater clarity over building standards, it said. It added that residents must know that they are safe and that building operators need better guidance on what materials are safe and what fire safety measures are necessary.

'Far behind in every aspect'

Chair of the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee, Clive Betts said: “We are two years on from the Grenfell Tower disaster and the Government is far behind where it should be in every aspect of its response.

“Further delay is simply not acceptable. The government cannot morally justify funding the replacement of one form of dangerous cladding, but not others. It should immediately extend its fund to cover the removal and replacement of any form of combustible cladding – as defined by the government’s combustible cladding ban – from any high-rise or high-risk building.

“Much more progress should also have been made on developing a comprehensive building and fire safety framework. This is simply not good enough. It has been over two years since the fire at Grenfell Tower, and more than a year since the publication of the final report of the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, and yet the government has only just published a consultation into its proposals for reform of the building safety regulatory system. The government must pick up the pace of reform, before it is too late.

“We would like to pay tribute to the victims and survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire, and thank them for giving evidence to our inquiry. We have a duty to learn the lessons of the failures that had such a devastating impact on so many lives. As of yet, the Government has failed to do so.”

Responding to publication of the committee's report, Jane Duncan, chair of the RIBA expert advisory group on fire safety, said: “As the housing select committee has highlighted, there has been an unacceptable delay in reforming building and fire safety regulations since the Grenfell Tower tragedy two years ago. Whilst the restrictions on combustible cladding and insulation materials on high-rise residential buildings represented some progress, MPs are right that much more concerted action is urgently needed.

"RIBA has consistently called for more prescriptive fire safety measures including sprinkler systems, and the cladding ban extended to more high-rise and higher-risk buildings such as schools, hospitals and care homes.

"The next prime minister must ensure that people can sleep safely in their homes.”

Comments

How long; how long can this go on?
What is Government for?
How many of you have railed against bureaucracy, red tape, health and safety, regulations, ...?
Grenfell, Liverpool Hospital, Edinburgh schools ... these testify to a race to the bottom; ill-considered, corners cut, lack of care or concern...
Just hearing of closures of building inspectors, unable to get insurance post Grenfell, local authorities (ie Council tax payers) expected to pick up the tab.
Building work should only to be undertaken by qualified people- its management and oversight by professionals. Where is CIOB on this?

Brian Wood , 18 July 2019

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