Government announces fire and building safety bills

Government announces fire and building safety bills

IN THE new government’s Queen’s Speech, building safety and fire safety bills were set to be introduced, with the latter setting out to ‘learn the lessons’ from the Grenfell Tower fire.

24Housing reported on the two bills, with the government stating that the Building Safety Bill would ‘place new and enhanced regulatory regimes for building safety and construction products, and ensure residents have a stronger voice in the system’. It aims to ‘learn the lessons’ of the Grenfell Tower fire and strengthen the ‘whole regulatory system for building safety, including fundamental changes to the regulatory framework for high-rise residential buildings’.

This first of the two bills is also said to aim to prompt changes in ‘industry culture’ in order to ‘ensure accountability and responsibility and ensuring residents are safe in their homes’. The main elements include an ‘enhanced safety framework’ for high rise residential buildings, ‘taking forward the recommendations’ from the Hackitt Review as well as ‘going further’ in certain areas.

It would provide ‘clearer accountability and stronger duties’ for those responsible for high rise fire safety ‘throughout the building’s design, construction and occupation’, with ‘clear competence requirements to maintain high standards’. The bill would also give residents a ‘stronger voice in the system’, ensuring concerns ‘are never ignored’ and that they ‘fully understand how they can contribute to maintaining safety’ in their buildings.

Other elements include strengthening enforcement and sanctions to ‘deter non-compliance’, hold the ‘right people to account when mistakes are made, and ensure they are not repeated’, as well as developing a ‘new stronger and clearer’ framework providing ‘national oversight of construction products’, in order to ensure all products ‘meet high performance standards’.

It will develop a new system to oversee the ‘whole built environment’, local enforcement agencies and national regulators working together ‘to ensure that the safety of all buildings is improved’. Finally, it will legislate to require that new build home developers ‘must belong to a New Homes Ombudsman’.

The Fire Safety Bill meanwhile aims to ensure that ‘an appalling tragedy like Grenfell can never happen again’, and ‘hints’ at supporting the findings from the inquiry’s first phase (), with ‘main benefits’ said to include providing residents with ‘reassurance’ that lessons have been learned as well as making it clear that building owns and managers know they are ‘responsible for assessing the risks of external walls and fire doors’.

Its main elements include a clarification that the scope of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 ‘includes the external walls of the building, including cladding’ and ‘fire doors for domestic premises of multiple occupancy’. The ‘relevant enforcement powers’ to hold both building owners and managers ‘to account’ would be strengthened, while a ‘transitional period’ for these two roles – or the responsible person – and the fire and rescue services would assist in placing infrastructure.

Alan Jones, president of RIBA, commented: ‘We await more detail on the new fire safety Bills outlined. New legislation must take a holistic view of the issues and urgently introduce clear and robust regulations. We have been clear that action is long overdue: England continues to lag behind other countries in the UK and across the world on fire safety, putting lives at risk.’