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Ban on combustible cladding does not go far enough, critics say

Grenfell tower guido van nispen flickr 2
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The government’s combustible cladding ban for new buildings does not go far enough, according to the RIBA and the London Fire Brigades Union

Housing secretary James Brokenshire announced yesterday (1 October) that the government will ban combustible materials in the exterior walls of new residential blocks above 18m as well as care homes, student accommodation, and hospitals.

The Ministry for Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has since confirmed it will limit the use of materials to products achieving a European fire-resistance classification of Class A1 or A2.

But concern has been raised that the Class A2 materials which have ’limited combustibility’, such as plasterboard, will continue to be permitted under the new rules.

The RIBA has said the government’s announcement is ‘not an adequate response’, pointing out that permitting products classified as A2 does not place any limits on toxic smoke production. 

Adrian Dobson, the RIBA’s director of professional services, said: ’Toxic smoke inhalation from the burning cladding very likely contributed to the disproportionately high loss of life at the Grenfell Tower disaster. Permitting all products classified as A2 does not place any limits on toxic smoke production and flaming particles/droplets.’

’In our view, this is not an adequate response to the tragic loss of life and might still put the public and the Fire and Rescue authorities at unnecessary risk.’

The RIBA’s concerns have been echoed by the London Fire Brigade Union (FBU), which has said the ban will still allow panelling that could catch fire. It is calling for only A1 materials, which do not contribute to a fire at any stage – such as metal, stone and glass – to be allowed.

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said yesterday: ’This is not the outright ban on combustible cladding that firefighters have been calling for. The Westminster government continues to allow cladding of limited combustibility for any building work in the future. The FBU called for a universal ban on these flammable materials.’

’The government’s proposals only apply to buildings over 18m high, plus hospitals, care homes and student accommodation, where they apply to all buildings, whatever their height or use.

’They continue to allow A2 materials, when they should permit only the highest standard of A1.’

The ban follows 15 months of pressure from those affected by the Grenfell Tower tragedy, in which 72 people died.

Announcing the ban following a lengthy consultation, Brokenshire said he wanted to bring about a ’change in culture on building safety’, and that the ’unimaginable horror’ of the Grenfell fire must not be allowed to happen again.

Further details of the ban are expected to be announced later this autumn. 

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Chris Roche

    If Government Ministers are choosing to ignore the advice of experts and professional opinion then it needs to be made clear to them they will be held accountable, including the possibility of facing a charge of "Corporate Manslaughter" as proposed by Labour's John McDonnell.

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