There are fewer than 300 qualified chartered fire engineers who can carry out an EWS1 survey to assess the suitability of cladding on high rise buildings, the housing minister has revealed.
He also noted that government was working with the industry to try to increase this number and improve guidance on assessing cladding and other external wall coverings on tall blocks.
In response to a written question from Ruth Cadbury, Labour MP for Brentford and Isleworth, housing minister Christopher Pincher (pictured) revealed the sparse number of qualified inspectors.
“The EWS1 process was designed by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors to support the valuation of flats in high-rise blocks,” he said.
“In some cases, this will require an assessment by a fire engineer. The Institution of Fire Engineers has informed the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) that there are around 291 chartered fire engineers.”
Training and support
The EWS1 form was created at the end of last year to help mortgage lenders assess whether properties were safe to lend on.
However, the scheme has been plagued with delays as ministers claim lenders have been extending its use further than initially intended, while inspectors have finding difficulties in obtaining professional indemnity insurance (PII).
This has left some borrowers unable to sell their flats and fearing they may be stuck with their current homes for years until an assessment can be completed.
Cadbury subsequently asked what government was doing increase the number of qualified chartered fire engineers and what support and additional training was available for new recruits.
Pincher replied: “MHCLG and the Home Office are working with professional bodies and industry associations to assess the capacity of the fire engineering sector and support them to develop a robust pipeline strategy.
“We are also working closely with the fire safety sector to develop technical guidance to support the fire risk assessment of external wall systems which will support increased capability within the wider sector and are supporting industry-led approaches to understanding fire engineering resource requirements within the sector.”
Owain Thomas is features and contributing editor of Mortgage Solutions and editor of Specialist Lending Solutions.
He also has experience in the protection, pensions, workplace benefits and HR areas.
Owain has won two Headline Money Awards and the Protection Review’s Journalist of the Year award.