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Government commits to new independent building safety regulator

Grenfell tower guido van nispen 3
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The government has committed to creating an independent building safety regulator as part of the ‘biggest reforms to the building safety regime in nearly 40 years’

The move, which confirms proposals outlined by the government in June, was spelt out in yesterday’s Queen’s Speech (14 October).

It was announced as part of a clutch of new measures addressing all 53 of Judith Hackitt’s recommendations from her independent review of building regulations which she put forward following the Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017.

The new regulator would oversee compliance with safety regulations by contractors, designers and building-owners. According to housing secretary Robert Jenrick, the watchdog would have ‘powers to enforce criminal sanctions’.

The wider legislative changes pledged by prime minister Boris Johnson’s government also include spelling out a clearer scope of accountability and duties throughout the building’s design, construction and occupation.

The framework is also expected to include stronger enforcement and sanctions to deter non-compliance to the new framework, with a ‘stronger and clearer framework’ for a national oversight of construction products.

Meanwhile, according to the AJ’s sister title Construction News, housing minister Esther McVey has promised that the government is moving ‘as fast as it can’ on clarifying what types of cladding are safe in the wake of Grenfell.

Speaking at the MIPIM UK Summit yesterday (14 October), McVey said: ‘Whatever we say or do, we will ensure that it comes with scientific advice behind it, so we are moving as fast as we can.’

RIBA president Alan Jones said that, while he welcomed the proposed legislation for building standards, it needed to ‘contain robust new requirements, including for sprinklers in new and converted homes and better means of warning and escape’.

It is a simple ask – buildings must be safe

He added: ‘The recent wave of fires, following on from the tragedy at Grenfell Tower over two years ago, has exposed the frightening scale of the crisis – and the need for architects to work on projects from design through to occupation. It is a simple ask – buildings must be safe.’

Comment

Gary Porter, building safety spokesman for the Local Government Association
Reform of our broken building safety system cannot come soon enough so we are pleased that today’s Queen’s Speech includes a bill to enshrine a tough new system into law.

Designers, developers, product manufacturers and building owners need to be given clear duties in relation to building safety and clear guidance on those duties. It is important that the new regulatory framework does not create a two-tier safety system. To avoid this we need a partnership between the new building regulator, councils and fire services, with local authorities given effective powers, including meaningful sanctions.

The new system must also be properly funded and residents have to be able to raise concerns and know they will be listened to.

The repair bill to improve the safety of existing buildings is likely to be significant, and leaseholders and council taxpayers will not be able to meet it. There is also a significant shortage of the skills required to deliver effective fire-safety regulation, and funding training will be an essential early step in these reforms.

The tragedy that unfolded at Grenfell Tower must never be allowed to happen again and we must ensure that those who live, work and visit high-rise and high-risk buildings are safe. We look forward to continuing to work with the government to deliver the much-needed reform to ensure residents are safe and feel safe.

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