8 May 2019 | Herpreet Kaur Grewal
London's deputy mayor for fire and resilience, Fiona Twycross, and fire commissioner Dany Cotton are calling on the government to tighten up building regulations to prioritise the need for sprinklers and address the shortage of skilled fire engineers.
Although Dame Judith Hackitt's review into building regulations was published almost a year ago, there has been no clarity from the government on the next steps for the review of regulations.
Now, the deputy mayor and the head of the London Fire Brigade are jointly urging ministers to implement fundamental changes to fire safety to prevent a tragedy such as the Grenfell Tower fire from happening again.
In a letter to the communities secretary James Brokenshire, Twycross and Cotton exhort the government to:
Ensure that new fire safety regulations cover a wider range of buildings than what is currently proposed.
Make installation of sprinklers mandatory in new residential buildings and any building where vulnerable people may be at risk.
Address the shortage of skilled fire engineers, which is currently limiting essential preventative work.
The letter emphasises the importance of fire engineers, who provide the vital expertise required to make sure buildings are safe from fire. The current shortage of skilled engineers means it is challenging to make the changes needed in building safety without urgent and targeted investment from the government.
Twycross convened a meeting of the London Fire Brigade, MPs, councillors, charities and industry experts to promote fire safety through highlighting good practice.
She said: "London's firefighters work tirelessly to keep us safe and we rightly praise them for their immense bravery, but we should also recognise the invaluable work they do every day to prevent fires.
"Many of the issues faced by firefighters reflect decades of failure to put fire safety - and therefore residents' safety - at the heart of how all buildings are constructed and refurbished. This matters for all of us, but in particular for some of the most vulnerable members of our society.
"Where City Hall has the power take action, the mayor is leading the way in ensuring new buildings are safe via the London Plan, which requires that all new developments achieve the highest standards of fire safety at the earliest planning stages.
"Now the government must act with the same level of urgency and implement changes in regulation as well as provide the necessary resources to deliver preventative work."
Cotton said: "Following Dame Judith Hackitt's review, we now need the government to act without further delay to ensure we have robust legislation and regulation in place to make buildings safer.
"For too long our fire safety advice on sprinklers has been ignored. Developers must be required to include sprinklers in building design and especially in purpose-built residential blocks and homes where vulnerable people live."
Councillor Darren Rodwell, London Councils' executive member for housing & planning, said: "The top priority for London boroughs is to ensure all residents are safe - and feel safe - in their homes. Following the fire at Grenfell, boroughs put immense effort and resources into carrying out essential remedial works.
"While a lot of safety improvements have been achieved, more change is needed at national policy level. We can't afford to lose momentum - the government must listen and urgently address these continuing concerns."