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Combustible cladding ban should apply to existing buildings, MPs urge

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The government’s plans to ban combustible cladding do not go ‘far enough’ and should be extended to existing buildings, a group of MPs has argued

A new report by the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee calls for the ban to apply to existing tower blocks as well as other high-risk buildings such as hospitals, student accommodation and hotels.

It also called for the retrospective installation of sprinklers in existing high-rise buildings where possible.

The report was issued in response to Judith Hackitt’s post-Grenfell review of the Building Regulations, which was criticised as a ‘whitewash’ for not recommending a ban on combustible materials.

Following the outcry, the government announced a consultation on plans to ban combustible cladding on new high-rises taller than 18m. 

Committee chair Clive Betts said Hackitt was correct to call for a ‘fundamental change of culture’ but that there were measures that could be introduced immediately. 

‘We are now more than a year on from the catastrophic events at Grenfell Tower, yet despite an independent review of Building Regulations, we are still no closer to having a system that inspires confidence that residents can be safe and secure in their homes,’ he said.

The report also called for the government to take ‘urgent action’ to tackle the ‘conflicts of interest’ in the construction industry’s product testing and inspection systems.

It said the government should prohibit the fire rescue authorities from acting as the enforcement authority if their commercial trading arms were providing safety advice.

Retro-fitting of sprinklers and the extension of a cladding ban to all high-rises were measures lobbied for by the RIBA. The institute’s director of professional services, Adrian Dobson, welcomed the report’s recommendations.

‘The Grenfell Tower fire disaster has shaken public confidence in the construction industry,’ he said. ‘To help rebuild trust and ensure that new developments do not repeat the mistakes of the past, the government should respond to the select committee’s recommendations without delay.’

The committee also recommended that all cladding systems should be subject to large-scale testing but stopped short of banning desktop studies – assessments undertaken without lab tests – arguing instead they should be limited.  

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