Government to implement Hackitt recommendations
THE GOVERNMENT has announced that a ‘stronger and more effective’ regulatory framework will implement all of Dame Judith Hackitt’s recommendations, and review building regulation fire safety guidance.
Dame Judith Hackitt’s review of building regulations and fire safety was launched last year after the Grenfell Tower fire, with its interim review released by Dame Judith last December finding that a ‘universal shift in culture’ is needed to rebuild trust ‘among residents of high-rise buildings’. This is also required to ‘significantly improve the way that fire safety is assured’, and the report calls on the construction industry, building owners, regulators and government to ‘come together’ to address ‘shortcomings’.
The final report was released in May, but ‘stopped short’ of proposing a ban on flammable cladding, though the government later said it would open a consultation on the matter. The government’s response had been keenly awaited, and it reported yesterday that a ‘stronger and more effective regulatory framework’ will ‘implement the recommendations’ made by Dame Judith, and ‘commits the government to a programme of reform over the coming years’.
In its view, the changes ‘will mean tougher sanctions for those who disregard residents’ safety, more rigorous standards and guidance for those undertaking building work, and a stronger voice for residents’. The government will ‘take forward all’ of Dame Judith’s recommendations to ‘create a more effective regulatory and accountability framework to provide greater oversight of the industry’ as well as introduce ‘clear standards and guidance’.
On this note, it will establish a new standards committee to ‘advise on construction product and system standards and regulations’, as well as putting residents ‘at the heart of the new system’ and ‘empowering them with more effective routes for engagement and redress’. Finally, the changes will ‘help to create a culture change and a more responsible building industry, from design, through to construction and management’.,
A joint regulators’ group will trial elements of the new regulatory system before any proposed legislation, and will ‘bring existing regulatory bodies together to work with developers and building owners, as well as seeking input from residents and tenants’ in order to ‘develop and test new approaches that may later feature in legislation’. The group will include Local Authority Building Council, the National Fire Chiefs Council, the Health and Safety Executive and the Local Government Asssociation.
Importantly, a ‘full review’ of fire safety guidance in the building regulations has been launched, with a call for evidence announced to gather expert advice on the ‘full range’ of issues. Resident and building manager views are invited on improving both fire and structural safety, and to identify ‘the best ways of working together to meet safety responsibilities and to share existing good practice’.
Housing Secretary James Brokenshire said: ‘There is nothing more important than being safe in your own home and I am determined to improve building safety. My plan for stronger, tougher rules will make sure there is no hiding place for those who flout building safety rules. By making people responsible and more accountable for safety, we will create a more rigorous system so residents will always have peace of mind that they are safe in their own homes.’
Jonathan O’Neill, managing director of the Fire Protection Association, responded: ‘The Fire Protection Association are particularly encouraged by the announcement for a review of the fire aspects of the building regulations, but state that 18 months after the tragedy at Grenfell, this exercise is long overdue and needs to be concluded quickly.
‘We welcome the acknowledgement of the value of third-party certificated products, but believe this assurance should be mandated and extend to the installers of products and the risk assessors. There is clearly much to do but we are keen to see change as soon as possible and will help in any way we can to ensure that we never experience a tragedy on the scale we witnessed at Grenfell – on our or any future generations’ watch.’
The Guardian reported on the view of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), which stated that with the exception of the combustible materials ban ‘more should have already been done by now to make buildings safer’. Jane Duncan, chair of the expert advisory group on fire safety, stated: ‘England is now lagging behind Wales and Scotland, who have in place or are introducing regulations to require sprinklers and provide a second means of escape.
‘Until we see real reform of the procurement processes for construction projects, the pressure to cut costs will continue to incentivise the use of cheaper and ultimately riskier materials, reduction in accountability and a lack of competence and supervision.’
Survivors and residents group Grenfell United also commented: ‘It is an industry that for years has put profit over people, creating a culture so rotten that people across the UK are not living in safe homes. We must be vigilant to ensure government and industry, that so badly failed us, do not water down these changes. Resident voices must be given weight and parliament must keep a watchful eye on progress.’