The Welsh Government has published proposals in its building safety white paper to reform the way buildings are designed, built and managed to ensure greater safety.
The proposals cover all multi-occupied residential buildings, from a house converted into two flats, to a high-rise apartment block and ensures “safety is observed at all stage of a building’s lifecycle while proposing clear lines of accountability for building owners and managers as well as a stronger regulatory system”.
It also includes:
- Clear lines of accountability, creating duty holders with the appropriate knowledge and expertise, who will be legally responsible for safety and reducing fire risk throughout the life cycle of the building;
- An enhanced programme of checks during construction to support evidence of compliance;
- The creation of two risk categories, with a ‘golden thread’ of up-to-date information about design, construction and ongoing maintenance required for all buildings of 18 metres high or over;
- A duty for a building to contain the capacity to contain a fire where it originates for long enough to allow it to be extinguished.
- A wholly new means for identifying and reducing risks of fire in blocks of flats. This will be easier for landlords and others to understand and apply, and more effective in reducing risks to residents;
- A process for residents to raise building safety concerns; and
- A single process for escalating concerns to the regulator.
The Welsh Government has already taken a number of steps to improve building safety.
Last January, following a change to regulations, the use of combustible materials in cladding systems was banned in Wales. This applied to all new residential buildings (flats, student accommodation and care homes) and hospitals over 18 metres ihigh.
Julie James, Minister for Housing and Local Government in Wales, said: “In the wake of the tragedy at Grenfell Tower, the Welsh Government has already taken action to make buildings safer for residents.
“It’s always been clear, however, that far more fundamental changes were needed to improve building safety in the round.
“That’s why we are proposing improvements to every stage of the life cycle of multi-occupied buildings, from design, through construction and into occupation, so new buildings are safe for each and every resident.
“Most importantly, these proposals are designed to empower residents by giving them far more say in the matters that affect their homes and providing clear channels for them to speak up and alert those responsible when things go wrong. Those who own and manage our buildings must live up to their obligations to put things right.
“These proposals, if passed into law in the next Senedd term, will create a new and much-improved regime which puts the safety of residents first.”