Councils call for urgent guidance on high rise cladding

By agency reporter
December 1, 2017

The independent Hackitt Review, set up following the Grenfell Tower fire and led by Dame Judith Hackitt, is expected to shortly produce an interim report into its examination of building and fire safety regulations, compliance and enforcement.

With landlords still unsure about what they can use for re-cladding their buildings following fire safety tests over the summer, the Local Government Association (LGA) said the Review’s forthcoming interim report needs to provide clear advice to building owners to help them protect and reassure residents about their safety.

LGA Chairman, Lord Porter said, “The tragedy at Grenfell Tower has exposed a systemic failure of the building regulation system. The LGA was successful in its call for an urgent and immediate review of building regulations and fire safety and our submission to the review sets out a number of proposals needed to ensure what happened at Grenfell Tower can never happen again.

“All 15 councils have acted quickly to put in safety measures in the high-rise blocks they own which are affected, and all councils continue to support other landlords in their area to deal with the issue. It is clear that all landlords now need urgent clarity about what replacement materials they should be using on their high-rise blocks.

“No-one should have to live in fear about their safety, be that in the buildings they live in, work in or visit.

“Local authorities take the safety of their residents extremely seriously. While councils will continue to get on with what they need to do to ensure people are safe in their homes, significant concerns remain about the financial implications. The Government needs to meet the unforeseen costs for councils arising from major remedial work and additional essential fire safety measures.”

The LGA, which represents 370 councils in England and Wales, has set out 18 recommendations to the Hackitt Review on how to improve construction and post-construction safety for those living in high-rise blocks. They include:

  • The Government’s guidance Approved Document B, which deals with fire safety in tall buildings needs a substantial rewrite. It is of no use to those fixing cladding systems to buildings if they do not understand it. The document is unclear and also establishes alternative routes to compliance which creates a contestable space in which manufacturers, builders and regulators must operate.
  • If no fire test data exists for a particular cladding system, a desktop study can be submitted. The use of desktop studies as a route to fire safety compliance must no longer be accepted.
  • It is also unsustainable that the results from the fire safety tests used for cladding systems (BS8414), can be treated as commercially confidential. The results of those cladding systems that have failed the BS8414 test must be published alongside those that have passed so building owners have a clear idea of what materials can safely be used on high rise buildings.
  • The time limit on enforcing building regulations must be removed - prosecution is only possible up to two years after completion of the work and councils can only issue enforcement notices requiring alteration and removal of work 12 months from the date the offending building work was completed.
  • Cladding used on high rise buildings should be subject to an accredited installers scheme.
  • The current competitive system of building control – which means work can be checked and verified by council building control departments or an independent Approved Inspector – is hindering an effective regime and can lead to lower standards and fewer, less rigorous inspections. Greater clarity is needed on the frequency and standard of inspections.

* Local Government Association https://www.local.gov.uk/

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