A ban on the use of combustible cladding in high-rise homes is set to hit all buildings with four or more storeys under plans the government is putting out to consultation
The policy is one of a raft of measures announced by housing secretary Robert Jenrick on Monday (20 January) as he outlined his response to a consultation on sprinklers and the Grenfell Inquiry phase one.
A snap ban on putting combustible materials in cladding systems in England had already been introduced in November 2018, but only applied to buildings above 18m tall.
Now the ban is set to be extended to all residential buildings over 11m, unless the government is convinced to change course during the consultation.
Jenrick also revealed that the government is minded to mandate sprinklers in all buildings of 11m or taller – a reduction from the 18m proposed by government when the policy went to consultation.
Policies on sprinkler height and the use of ACM cladding is devolved, meaning Jenrick’s announcment does not apply to Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland.
Jane Duncan, chair of the RIBA Expert Advisory Group on Fire Safety, said: ‘I’m pleased to see the government commit to addressing some of the urgent issues in UK buildings safety regulations and welcome proposals to extend requirements for sprinklers and the ban on combustible materials.
‘This year will mark the third anniversary of the Grenfell Tower Fire, and far too little has changed since the tragedy,’ she added.
Jenrick also said a new regulator for building safety will start operating in shadow form in a matter of weeks, under the umbrella of workplace safety regulator Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
Judith Hackitt, a former chair of the HSE and author of the post-Grenfell review of fire standards and building regulation, will chair the board overseeing the creation of the new regulator.
The body will operate in shadow form until legislation is brought forward to give them defined powers to inspect with respect to certain regulations.
The UK’s first ever national chief inspector of buildings will be recruited shortly, while the regulator will draw on the experience of other regulators when implementing the new regime.
Jenrick also said he was extending a ban on ACM cladding with a polyethylene core on all buildings, and not just high-rise housing.
But he said action on removing dangerous ACM cladding from residential tower blocks had been ‘unacceptably slow’, adding that he would name and shame the owners of high-rise buildings with ACM cladding where remediation work had not begun from next month.
As of 31 December 2019, 315 public and high-rise housing buildings still had ACM cladding systems, while 174 private residential buildings also had ACM cladding. Of these 14 public buildings and 143 private buildings had not started remediation work.
London Fire Brigade’s assistant commissioner for fire safety, Dan Daly, said he welcomed Jenrick’s announcement.
‘The proposal to introduce sprinklers into new builds above a height of 11 metres, down from the current threshold of 30 metres, is a massive step in the right direction and something we called for and fully support,’ he said.
‘It is also right that action is taken to name and shame building owners who are putting residents at risk by not removing dangerous cladding.’
But he added: ‘While the measures being taken are a step in the right direction, there is still much more detail needed before we are satisfied that the fundamental change required has been delivered.’