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03-10-18

NFCC Chair: Welcomes cladding ban but 'disappointed it hasn't gone further'

The National Fire Chiefs Council has welcomed the Government’s announcement it will ban combustible cladding on buildings but has voiced its disappointment the ban hasn’t gone further as it won’t apply to buildings under 18 metres in height, especially where those buildings are used to house vulnerable people.

The statement was made by James Brokenshire, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, at the Conservative Party conference (October 1st 2018).  This followed the Government’s recent consultation on banning combustible materials on external walls of high-rise residential buildings.

While the NFCC has noted that building regulations already restrict or control the use of combustible materials on buildings at 18 metres and above, it welcomes the intention to offer even greater certainty to concerned residents and to the construction industry. That the use of combustible materials has been discovered to be so prevalent, suggests other interpretations have been reached, or that the options provided by guidance have been misused. 

The NFCC has however issued caution that that a ban should not be considered ‘job done’ and disappointment that the announcement did not go further. 

While NFCC is pleased to see the ban extends to all combustible cladding and not just Aluminium Composite Materials (ACM) cladding, it believes it should apply to buildings under 18 metres in height and there is more to do to ensure the safety of residents. 

NFCC Chair Roy Wilsher fully supports the ban on all combustible cladding: “While I am pleased this has resulted in a ban of ACM and other combustible cladding, I am disappointed this does not go further and apply to buildings of any height. We believe buildings (including care homes and hospitals) below 18 metres in height should be afforded the same protection as those above this threshold. There may be residents living in buildings which still have materials on them - slightly outside the scope - resulting in people being concerned for their safety. We are also of the opinion that A2 should be further refined than the current AD-B expectation. This classification can allow for high smoke production and flaming droplets, and we recommend that these aspects should be further controlled.

“I look forward to seeing how this ban will be implemented practically and it is essential there are no unintended consequences. We must also take into account the latest advice issued by the Independent Expert Panel (September 20th) which states leaving any amount of ACM cladding on a building would continue to pose a hazard to residents and firefighters in the event of a fire. The focus must be on making people feel safe, therefore there must be a plan in place to achieve this.”

Mr Wilsher also reiterated that NFCC has never considered cladding which falls under the category ACM2 or ACM3 – similar to the material on Grenfell – or combustible insulation complied with Building Regulations.

According to the Minister, the ban will cover all combustible materials - including cladding - on new buildings. The ban will be implemented through changes to building regulations which are likely to be brought forward in late autumn.

 NFCC’s full response to the consultation can be found at: https://www.nationalfirechiefs.org.uk/Consultations

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