Calls to scrap private building control inspections

Calls to scrap private building control inspections

CHESHIRE EAST Council has called on the government to ‘scrap’ private sector building control inspections, in a bid to ‘improve safety’ post Grenfell.

Knutsford Guardian reported on the call by a Cheshire East councillor to make all building control inspections council run, with Ainsley Arnold, cabinet member for housing, planning and regeneration, planning to write to Communities Secretary James Brokenshire to express this view. Other councillors agreed in a meeting that Mr Arnold’s letter should express support for ‘steps being taken’ to improve building safety by the government.

The discussion on building regulations was brought by councillor Nick Mannion, who also put forward a motion calling for an ‘immediate ban on the use’ of flammable cladding on high rises, as well as the provision of ‘adequate compensation’ for councils faced with the costs of removing and replacing such cladding. He also called for the council to support local authorities being the ‘sole provider’ of building control and ‘an end to the constant denigration of health and safety’.

Peter Kent, former leader of Crewe and Nantwich Borough Council, also told the meeting that he had been involved with local authority building control before and after the Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017, noting that the fire was ‘really something that people had seen coming for a long time’ once private sector firms began providing building control services in the 1990s.

He added: ‘Inevitably the discussions on Grenfell have been focused on materials – cladding and so on – but the main factors that underpinned it have been the problem of inspections. The local authority building control service is and remains the only regulatory service that is subject to private sector competition.

‘One particular private sector company stated in their advertisement that no application is ever turned down. I don’t know if that makes you feel safe, but it certainly doesn’t for me. The effect of this has been that standards have been driven down, and the Hackitt report commissioned by the Government underlines that.’

Another councillor, Brian Roberts, stated: ‘I’ve had the privilege of working in the construction industry for the best part of 50 years. I have had the benefit of both systems – control by the local authority and by the private sector. I know which was tougher, I know which was better on-site for application – needing assistance, needing local information, needing support. And the local authority gave that support.’