MPs have warned the government it runs the risk of another devastating tragedy if it does not ’pick up the pace’ of its post-Grenfell safety reforms
A critical report by the Housing, Communities and Local Government (HCLG) Committee has said ministers must recognise ‘the need for urgency’ in reforming building and fire regulations.
The government was also still not doing enough to remove dangerous cladding from existing buildings, the report said, calling for it to ’fulfil its moral duty to ensure buildings are safe’.
The report warns that the £200 million that the government has set aside for stripping cladding from private buildings will not be sufficient.
It adds that the government has also failed to fund the removal of other dangerous cladding materials currently found on hundreds of existing blocks of flats and high-risk buildings.
The committee also said it was frustrated that the government had only recently started consulting on its proposals for the new building regulations regime.
Clive Betts MP, chair of the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee, said: ’We are two years on from the Grenfell Tower disaster and the government is far behind where it should be in every aspect of its response.
’Further delay is simply not acceptable. The government cannot morally justify funding the replacement of one form of dangerous cladding, but not others. It should immediately extend its fund to cover the removal and replacement of any form of combustible cladding – as defined by the government’s combustible cladding ban – from any high-rise or high-risk building.’
Jane Duncan, chair of the RIBA’s expert advisory group on fire safety, agreed there had been an ‘unacceptable delay’ in reforming building and fire safety regulations since the tragedy in June 2017, which claimed the lives of 72 people.
She said: ’While the restrictions on combustible cladding and insulation materials on high-rise residential buildings represented some progress, MPs are right that much more concerted action is urgently needed.
’The RIBA has consistently called for more prescriptive fire safety measures, including sprinkler systems, and the cladding ban extended to more high-rise and higher-risk buildings such as schools, hospitals and care homes.’
An spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government said: ’Public safety is paramount and within days of the Grenfell Tower fire a comprehensive Building Safety Programme was put in place to ensure residents of high-rise properties are always kept safe.
’We have committed up to £600 million to fund the removal and replacement of unsafe ACM cladding on high-rise social and private residential buildings.
’Ultimately building owners are responsible for the safety of their building and we expect them to carry out work quickly – anything less is unacceptable.’
Gary Porter, Local Government Association’s building safety spokesperson
The delay to the programme of testing cladding materials leaves residents facing another summer of uncertainty over the safety of their homes.
Although it is two years since we raised the need to look at High Pressure Laminate (HPL) with government, five years since an HPL system combined with combustible insulation failed a fire test and 10 years since HPL panels helped spread the fire at Lakanal House where six people died, advice has only just been issued on the level of risk posed by HPL cladding.
Given the expert panel’s advice that European Class C and D panels are unlikely to adequately resist the spread of fire and that any HPL panel when combined with combustible insulation is also unlikely to adequately resist the spread of fire, government needs to give immediate consideration to funding the removal of HPL cladding systems from high-rise residential buildings. It cannot be right when the building owners of blocks with ACM cladding are receiving financial assistance that we do not extend the same help to those with HPL cladding.
Delays to the testing of cladding materials leaves residents facing another summer of uncertainty
In addition the government needs to publish the results of all the other tests it has conducted so far to reassure residents and help building owners.
We will be encouraging our members to push private owners to claim the money the government is making available to deal with ACM. We have previously raised the need to fund the replacement of all forms of dangerous cladding with the government and we are pleased to see the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee recommend that the government should do so.
For some councils the sheer volume of high rise buildings makes the job of collecting data on cladding systems a mammoth task which will require additional staff – especially in cases where private owners are hard to trace or refuse to cooperate. The government needs to provide the funding it is planning for this work as soon as possible.