The government has published a series of proposals to improve building safety and give residents and leaseholders greater say and control in the costs they will face.
Three years after the Grenfell Tower tragedy, a consultation also seeks views on implementing the recommendations from the resulting enquiry which looks at improving fire safety in all regulated buildings in England.
The post-Grenfell fire safety proposals focus on a number of areas, including providing residents with greater assurance and fire safety improvements in buildings; driving effective and sustainable operational outcomes for fire fighters; and enabling better identification of responsible persons, such as building owners and managers.
Alongside publishing the proposals, the government told the construction industry to begin preparing for these changes now, even though they could evolve as the law and evidence develops.
Overall, The Building Safety Bill accommodates the creation of a Building Safety Regulator, which is already being set up within the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
This will be equipped with the power to hold building owners to account or face the consequences and will enforce a new, more stringent set of rules that will apply for buildings of 18 metres or more or taller than six storeys from the design phase to occupation.
The HSE will launch the recruitment for the first chief inspector of buildings in England, who will lead the regulator, later this year.
The regulator will have three main functions:
- to oversee the safety and standard of all buildings,
- directly assure the safety of higher-risk buildings;
- and improve the competence of people responsible for managing and overseeing building work.
Limiting costs to leaseholders
The government has also asked its representative Michael Wade to work with leaseholders, and the finance and insurance industries.
He will test and recommend funding solutions to protect leaseholders from unaffordable costs of fixing historic defects, ensuring that the burden does not fall on taxpayers, the government said.
Wade will also develop proposals to address insurance issues around building safety.
A new building safety charge to give leaseholders greater transparency around costs incurred in maintaining a safe building will also be introduced – with powers included to limit the costs that can be re-charged to leaseholders.
Builders prepare for changes now
Independent adviser and author of the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, Dame Judith Hackitt said: “I welcome this draft Bill as an important milestone in delivering the fundamental reform this industry needs to make residents and buildings safer.
“It meets the ambitions and recommendations set out in my review.
“And industry must be in no doubt that it is not enough to wait for the Bill to become law before they implement changes; we expect them to start taking action now.”
Housing secretary Robert Jenrick continued: “I remain committed to making sure we get this right, which is why I will be publishing the draft Bill for scrutiny and improvement before it is introduced in Parliament.
“I am also calling on the industry to actively prepare for these changes now. It is vital that the sector moves in step with us, to provide confidence and reassurance to residents that their safety is firmly at the heart of everything we do.”
Building safety and fire minister Lord Greenhalgh added: “As a government we are determined to learn the lessons from that fateful night at Grenfell Tower and ensure that a tragedy like this does not happen again.
“These are the biggest changes to building safety legislation for nearly 40 years, and they will raise standards across the industry and ensure building owners have nowhere to hide if they break the rules.
“Consulting on key recommendations from the inquiry and wider changes to fire safety regulation will give those affected the opportunity to make their voices heard and help us implement lasting, significant change.”
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.