Keeping residents safe

The recent fire at a six-storey block of flats in east London has demonstrated the enormous amount of work that still needs to be done to ensure people can sleep safely at night in all types of homes across the country.

Since the Grenfell Tower tragedy, the LGA has made the case for fundamental reform of our broken building regulations system. So we were pleased to see the Government’s recent launch of a consultation on how to implement the recommendations made by Dame Judith Hackitt.

The proposals in the consultation do reflect many of the calls we have made, but there is still work to do to drive these reforms forward – and this must happen as soon as possible. For example, there are many buildings outside of the current scope of the reforms – such as hospitals, care homes and residential schools – which should be protected in the same way.

“We must avoid creating a two-tier system that delivers safety in high-risk buildings at the expense of residents elsewhere

Designers, developers, product manufacturers and building owners need to be given clear duties in relation to building safety and clear guidance on those duties. The new system needs to be funded properly and residents must be able to raise concerns, and know they will be listened to.

While work has begun on reforms to improve the safety of blocks above 18 metres in height, the fire in Barking, east London, in early June, showed that buildings under 18 metres have similar safety issues. We must avoid creating a two-tier system that delivers safety in high-risk buildings at the expense of residents elsewhere.

The consultation – which is open until the end of July – promises new powers for regulators, backed by effective sanctions. Building owners will have to demonstrate

that high-risk buildings are safe at the design and construction stages, and throughout their occupation, including during and after refurbishment.

A new competence regime will cover the construction industry and building management, and new bodies will set national standards for essential construction products and provide oversight of the regulatory system. Most importantly, new measures will ensure that residents’ concerns are listened to and acted upon.

The LGA has influenced these proposals and supports them in general, but it is vital that a risk-based approach to regulation

is introduced. As these proposals are turned into legislation, we will work to ensure that regulation remains locally accountable and that regulators are able to treat buildings holistically – in particular, where residential blocks sit above retail or commercial premises.

The new system will need to be funded properly if residents are to be kept safe, and that funding will need to include transitional costs, such as increased provision of fire engineering capacity in the workforce.

It is now just over two years since the Grenfell Tower fire cost at least 72 lives and began to shed light on the appalling and unacceptable approach to safety in some parts of the building industry in recent years.

The tragedy at Grenfell Tower must never be allowed to happen again. We look forward to continuing to work with the Government to deliver the much-needed reforms to ensure residents are safe, and feel safe.

The Government’s consultation on building safety is open until 31 July at www.gov.uk/government/consultations/building-a-safer-future-proposals-for-reform-of-the-building-safety-regulatory-system. To further inform the LGA’s work in this area, please share your consultation responses with us by emailing charles.loft@local.gov.uk, and contact him if you have any questions. You can also learn about what other councils are doing to respond to the upcoming changes by joining our online Building Safety Knowledge Hub – sign up at www.khub.net.

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