NFCC submits response to Hackitt consultation
THE NATIONAL Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) stated that it was ‘broadly supportive’ of Dame Judith Hackitt’s recommendations, but ‘believes there are opportunities to go further’.
Dame Judith’s final report on building regulations and fire safety, which ‘stopped short’ of proposing a ban on flammable cladding, though the government later said it would open a consultation on a ban. Her review was launched last year after the Grenfell Tower fire, with its interim review last December finding that a ‘universal shift in culture’ is needed to rebuild trust ‘among residents of high-rise buildings’.
In May, the government began holding sessions consulting on Dame Judith’s recommendations, and the NFCC has now published the response that it submitted ‘following a call for views’ on the report. The council ‘welcomed many’ of the recommendations made, and the ‘determination shown to fix the system’, noting that it was ‘broadly supportive’ of ‘most’ recommendations.
Pointing out that it was ‘keen to see these acted upon’, the NFCC also stated that it ‘believes there are opportunities to go further’, with the sector as a whole to ‘benefit from wider application of the proposals’. Among the key points of its submission include widening the definition of higher risk residential buildings, as ‘this is currently too narrow’, and should ‘move toward an 11 metre limit’ as well as be ‘widened to include other buildings’, considering the ‘vulnerability of occupants’.
In turn, the NFCC believes the government should ‘commit to a specified time frame in which to review implementation, and extend the recommendations to other parts of the sector’, and supports the ‘principle’ of a strengthened regulator and the Joint Competent Authority (JCA). Here, it would ‘like to see further detail’, but believes the JCA ‘should be a national body with dedicated resources’ that can set a framework and standard for local areas.
This would also include ‘how it would offer advice on difficult cases’, with the NFCC hoping it would become a body ‘which seeks out and shares good practice, while dealing with disputes’. Another point it made was that the ‘current gap’ between the Housing Act and the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 ‘is one of the biggest problems in the current landscape which must be resolved’ through primary regulation.
In turn, competence ‘remains one of the most important aspects’ sector wide, and is a ‘common thread through the majority of issues highlighted’, while the NFCC expressed support for product testing proposals, such as a ‘robust testing programme, better market surveillance, and greater transparency on passes and failures recorded’. Sprinklers should also ‘be a requirements’ in all new builds of 18m or higher, and should be ‘retro-fitted in existing buildings 30 metres and above’
Finally, the ‘appointment of a clear duty holder through the life cycle of a building is welcomed’, the council believing that ‘new gateway points’ from the initial planning stage through to building occupation ‘are an essential minimum step towards a change in culture’.
Roy Wilsher, NFCC chair, said: ‘The Hackitt Review and its recommendations in the main are very positive. The findings reported have the support of NFCC and we will continue to work with the relevant bodies to help inform policy development and support implementation. I would like to highlight the importance of accountable duty holders, stronger sanctions and enforcement actions, new gateway points and digital record keeping, and I am pleased to see these included.
‘It is essential however that the recommendations are acted upon to ensure a safer environment for our communities, while introducing more responsibility and accountability throughout the process. In addition there are areas which do need further exploration which we have highlighted within our response. I look forward to engaging with government to explore these further and move them forward.’