The Government has committed to pick up the pace of building safety reforms in a range of measures announced on 20 and 21 January 2020.
Measures announced include:
The immediate establishment of the Building Safety Regulator in shadow form within the Health and Safety Executive pending the new Building Safety legislation. The Building Safety Regulator will regulate and provide oversight of the design, construction and occupation of higher risk buildings. Dame Judith Hackitt will chair a board to oversee the transition to the new regime.
The Government's current intention to lower the height threshold for sprinkler requirements in new buildings from 18 metres to 11 metres following the consultation which ended on 28 November. The detailed proposals are expected in February.
The appointment of an independent construction expert to identify steps to progress the remediation of unsafe ACM cladding, especially in the private sector. Also, building owners who have not yet started remediation of ACM cladding to make the external walls of their buildings safe will be publicly named from February.
A 12 week consultation and review of the ban on combustible materials in the external walls of new high-rise residential buildings which was introduced in December 2018. The consultation proposes to extend the ban to hotels, hostels and boarding houses and to reduce the height threshold of the ban from 18 metres to at most 11 metres. The proposals would also ban the use of metal composite panels with a polyethylene core from the external walls of any building regardless of height or purpose. The consultation ends 13 April 2020.
The publication of a new MHCLG consolidated Advice Note to provide further clarity to building owners of high-rise residential buildings to ensure fire safety, bringing together 22 separate Advice notes into one document. This Advice covers the use of ACM cladding, HLP panels, external wall systems and fire doors, and makes it clear that owners of residential buildings below 18 metres need to do more to address building safety and take appropriate action where necessary.
Further detail of the Fire Safety Bill which will take forward the recommendations of the Phase 1 Report of the Grenfell Tower Public Inquiry. The Bill will clarify the scope of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and will require building owners or managers of multi-occupied residential buildings of any height to mitigate fire safety risks of any external wall systems and front doors to individual flats.
These announcements were described by Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick as "the biggest change in building safety for a generation" and have been coming for a while since the Hackitt report called for a wide-ranging reform in building and fire safety regulation. But with the acknowledgement that progress has so far been "unacceptably slow" to date, the start of Phase 2 of the Public Inquiry on 27 January and the approach of the third anniversary of the Grenfell fire, the renewed impetus is welcomed. 2020 promises to be a busy year.