Building safety regulator announced
A NEW buildings safety regulator that will ‘aim to prevent a repeat’ of the Grenfell Tower fire was one of the bills mooted in the government’s Queen’s speech.
The Guardian, i and Mirror reported on the announcement ahead of the speech, which noted that the new safety ‘watchdog’ would be instigated via a bill, which would allow it to ‘impose strict obligations on building developers and owners’. This move ‘signalled one of the biggest reforms in the building sector in over 40 years’, and the watchdog would aim to ensure that ‘any high-rise flats are as safe as can be for residents’.
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick stated that he hoped the new law ‘will help to give a voice to residents so that they can convey concerns over building safety directly to management’. He added: ‘This new legislation will also give residents a stronger voice to ensure that their safety is the top priority of every building owner and developer. We must never see a tragic incident like the fire at Grenfell Tower happen again.
‘That is why we are introducing the biggest reforms to the building safety regime in nearly 40 years. The current system will be overhauled and a new regulator with powers to enforce criminal sanctions will be at the heart of protecting residents. Inaction will not be accepted and will have consequences.’
The Mirror added more detail on the regulator’s role, noting that residents ‘will be able to raise their concerns over a building’s safety’, and with the regulator able to ‘hand out tough penalties’ such as two years’ imprisonment or ‘unlimited’ fines to tower block developers and owners. It will have the power to launch prosecutions over fears about design and construction’, and Mr Jenrick has given building owners ‘who try to dodge their responsibilities until the end of the month to comply with his instructions’ on combustible cladding.
After that point, if they ‘fail to do so’ the companies or individuals ‘will be named and shamed until the regulator is up and running with more powerful sanction’. Prosecutions might also take place if a developer is told a design is unsafe ‘but carries on building anyway’, or if they use ‘cheaper and more dangerous materials without getting the regulator’s permission to do so’. Refusing orders to remove cladding or replace fire doors would also see them ‘hauled before the courts’.
The Guardian pointed out however that with Prime Minister Boris Johnson lacking a majority in parliament, ‘there is a real possibility that the Queen’s speech in its entirety could be voted down by parliament for the first time since 1924’.