News

20-12-19

Queen's Speech outlines building safety remains key priority for government

The National Fire Chiefs Council is pleased to see building safety remains a key focus for government, following the Queen’s Speech. New measures to improve building safety were set out at yesterday’s State Opening of Parliament, where priorities for the months ahead were set out.

The Building Safety Bill aims to put in place new and enhanced regulatory regimes while ensuring residents have a stronger voice in the new system.

NFCC Chair Roy Wilsher commented: “I was pleased to see the vitally important area of building safety referenced in the Queen’s Speech. The government will be taking forward all 53 of Dame Judith Hackitt’s recommendations and has accepted - in principle - the findings of the Grenfell Inquiry phase one report.

“It is essential this work happens at pace to ensure people feel safe in their homes, while dealing with the broken building regulations system. This simply cannot be allowed to continue; I will be pushing for this to happen.

“NFCC will continue to work with government to push this area of work forward, while calling for increased protection resources to make it a reality and to ensure fire services are given the addition resources to undertake this work.

“The newly formed Protection Board is going some way to build on this. However, to make significant change, there needs to be significant investment.

The work to remove dangerous cladding needs to move much more quickly, as people across the country are living in clad buildings. The recent student accommodation fire in Bolton was a stark reminder of the need to build and maintain buildings properly and the need to address timber-frame building fires which have also been prevalent this year.

“I look forward to working with the government in the New Year to push this work forward and see changes made for the better, addressing the broken system and increasing public confidence.”

Building safety measures and changes must not be treated in isolation; the whole system needs addressing and actions arising from the Hackitt report need to be implemented.

The Queen’s speech also referenced the Fire Safety Bill. This aims to bring meaningful change to ensure an appalling tragedy like Grenfell can never happen again and will see relevant legislative recommendations of the Grenfell Tower public inquiry phase one report implemented.

It will also ‘put beyond doubt’ that the Fire Safety Order will require building owners and managers of multi-occupied residential premises to fully consider and mitigate the risks of any external wall systems and fire doors. This applies to buildings of any height.  But again the fire and rescue service will need the powers and resources to implement this proposed change in a professional manner.

Fire services are also referenced in the Serious Violence Bill, which will introduce new laws “requiring schools, police, councils and health authorities to work together to prevent serious crime.’’

This will include amending the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 to ensure that serious violence is an explicit priority for Community Safety Partnerships, which include local police, fire and probation services, as well as local authorities and wider public services.

Notes to editors: 

The main elements of the two bills are:

  • An enhanced safety framework for high-rise residential buildings which will take forward the recommendations from Dave Judith Hackitt’s review of building safety
  • Providing clearer accountability and stronger duties for those responsible for the safety of high-rise buildings throughout the building’s design, construction and occupation, with clear competence requirements to maintain high standards
  • Giving residents a stronger voice in the system 
  • Strengthening enforcement and sanctions to deter non-compliance with the new regime, hold the right people to account when mistakes are made and ensure they are not repeated.
  • Developing a new stronger and clearer framework to provide national oversight of construction products, to ensure all products meet high performance standards.
  • Developing a new system to oversee the whole built environment, with local enforcement agencies and national regulators working together to ensure that the safety of all buildings is improved.
  • Clarifying that the scope of the Fire Safety Order includes the external walls of the building, including cladding, and fire doors for domestic premises of multiple occupancy.
  • Strengthening the relevant enforcement powers to hold building owners and managers to account.
  • Providing a transitional period for building owners and managers (the “responsible person”) and Fire and Rescue Services to put in place the infrastructure for these changes.
  • Providing residents in these properties with reassurance that the Government is learning lessons from the Grenfell tragedy and taking steps to improve their safety.
  • Ensuring that building owners and managers are clear that they are responsible for assessing the risks of external walls and fire doors in buildings of any height.
  • Making clear Fire and Rescue Services’ role to undertake enforcement against dangerous cladding and fire doors in residential buildings.

These provisions would extend and apply to England only. Fire safety policy and fire and rescue services are devolved to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

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