Consultation on 'desktop' fire assessments launched
Working groups to monitor high-rise living
18 July 2018 | Herpreet Kaur Grewal
The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee has called for extension of the combustible cladding ban and action to tackle conflicts of interest in construction industry, in a report into building regulations and fire safety published today.
It states that "urgent and wide-ranging action" by the government was needed to ensure the safety of people living in high-rise buildings, including extending a proposed ban on combustible cladding and tackling the conflicts of interest that are pervasive throughout the construction industry.
The committee recommends "extensive changes to building regulations", following the publication of the Final Report of the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, set up after the Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017.
The report outlined several conflicts of interest that exist in the construction industry, including how builders are able to appoint their own inspectors, who may have a commercial interest in not reporting bad practice to the local authority, and manufacturers choosing the most lenient testing bodies for their products.
The committee also calls on the government to prohibit the practice of fire rescue authorities acting as the enforcement authority where their commercial trading arms are providing safety advice.
The report calls for "a robust system of oversight and meaningful sanctions, but underpinned by a strong, prescriptive approach" and argues that the two should not be seen as mutually exclusive.
It also welcomes the government's intention to ban the use of materials that are not of limited combustibility in the cladding of new high-rise buildings, but says the ban must also apply to existing buildings and residential homes, hospitals, student accommodation and hotels.
It concludes that, where feasible, sprinklers should be fitted to all high-rise residential buildings to provide an extra layer of safety and that the government should make funding available for installation in council and housing association-owned buildings.
It also said that it is clear that the ownership and responsibility of privately owned buildings is "often complex and recommends that the government conducts an urgent review into responsibility and liability of such building to ensure the necessary work can be carried out for the safety of residents, which is paramount". The government should then produce further subsequent guidance for building owners.
The committee also called for a low-interest loan scheme for private sector building owners to ensure that remedial work is carried out as quickly as possible and that costs are not passed on to leaseholders.