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Government announces new measures to improve building safety standards 30/01/2020 Labelled as Legislation, Regulation

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has announced new measures which go faster and further to improve building safety.

 

The new measures were announced on 20 January 2020 in Parliament including, amongst other measures, the immediate establishment of a new Building Safety Regulator in the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

 

The announcement came alongside publication of the Government's response to Phase 1 Report of the Grenfell Public Inquiry and immediately prior to the re-opening of Phase 2 of the Grenfell Public Inquiry.

 

The new measures announced by the Secretary of State include:

 

1. A move to immediately introduce the new building safety regulatory regime. Establishing the new Building Safety Regulator immediately, initially in shadow form pending legislation. This new Regulator will be established within the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Dame Judith Hackitt will chair a Board to oversee transition to the new regime. 

 

2. The lowering of the height threshold for sprinkler requirements in new buildings. It will set out detailed proposals for this and how it will deliver the technical review of fire guidance in February.  

 

3. A consultation on the ban on the use of combustible materials, including proposals to lower the 18m height threshold to at least 11m.   

 

4. Publication of a revised, consolidated advice note on the steps building owners should be taking to address a range of safety risks. This brings together and updates 22 previous separate advice notes. In particular it clarifies that:

  • more action is needed to review these risks in all purpose-built flats and multi-occupied buildings below 18m. 
  • ACM cladding with an unmodified polyethylene core should not be used on buildings at any height. This reflects the evidence from the materials research programme. 
  • Actions building owners should take in relation to fire doors in purpose-built blocks of flats. 
    • The updated guidance seems to fall short of the recommendation of the Grenfell Inquiry Phase 1 report that fire doors should be inspected on a quarterly basis.
    • The updated guidance from the Expert Panel merely says that all fire doors, including the closers, should be routinely maintained by a suitably qualified professional; and that residents should be made aware of the significant importance of a working self-closing device on all fire doors.
    • The updated guidance also stresses that building owners should aim to replace existing timber flat entrance doorsets if they suspect they do not meet the fire or smoke resistance performance contained in the Local Government Association guide "Fire Safety in Purpose Built Blocks of Flats"

 

 5. Publication of a call for evidence seeking views on the assessment and prioritisation of fire risks associated with external wall systems, such as cladding, within existing buildings. So far Government have relied on crude height limits with binary consequences and the plan is to gather ideas before commissioning work from leading experts to develop a more sophisticated matrix of risk factors which will then underpin the future approach. 

 

This announcement will have implications for social housing landlords who should carefully consider the revised and updated guidance issued by the Expert Panel. 

 

We have met with officials from the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) to discuss the announcement and the proposals contained in it and will be drafting an ARCH response to the consultation and the call for evidence. If your council has any views and comments on the proposals, we would like to hear from you. Please contact ARCH Chief Executive John Bibby (john.bibby@arch-housing.org.uk).

 

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