The Local Government Association is urging MPs to back amendments to the building safety bill – tabled by LGA vice-president Daisy Cooper MP – to protect future residents of new buildings under 18 metres not covered by the scope of the bill.
The building safety bill will establish a building safety regulator (BSR) within the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to implement a new, more stringent, regulatory regime for higher-risk buildings. These are defined as residential buildings, care homes and hospitals over 18 metres.
However, the bill leaves residential buildings under 18 metres out of scope. This will create a two-tier system where buildings below 18 metres will face less rigorous safety regulations than buildings higher than 18 metres.
The LGA says the current scope of the bill would not have covered the Cube student residence in Bolton. In December 2019, the flammable cladding at the Cube rendered the only staircase untenable within half an hour and a resident was rescued from the top floor of the building moments before the flat from which she was rescued was destroyed by fire. This suggests that had the fire taken place later in the evening when more residents were asleep, it would probably have resulted in fatalities.
In addition, the LGA says there have been serious fires in Barking and Worcester Park, among others, which have demonstrated the real danger that the failings of modern construction pose to residents in buildings under 18 metres.
Councillor David Renard, housing spokesperson at the LGA, said: “The building safety bill, along with the Fire Safety Act 2021, are important pieces of legislation that will strengthen the building safety system in the UK.
“The LGA has long warned about the need for building safety reforms to avoid creating a two-tier building safety system which leaves buildings under 18 metres vulnerable and unprotected. The height of a building does not define the risk to its safety, as has been proven by a number of dangerous and potentially fatal fires in buildings below 18 metres.
“We urge MPs to back these amendments to ensure the extension of the bill’s protection to those buildings under 18 metres that require it on the basis of risk is hardwired into the legislation.”