Government announces building reforms in response to Grenfell tragedy

The new Secretary of State for Housing, James Brokenshire, has committed to a raft of major building safety reforms. 

Rufus Ballaster, of Carter Lemon Camerons LLP, observed that many clients of the firm would be affected in terms of the building projects they have underway as owners or contractors and those they undertake going forward.

The commitments to reform the sector are published in response to Dame Judith Hackitt’s Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety.

The reforms include a consultation on banning the use of combustible materials in cladding systems on high-rise residential buildings, following the lethal Grenfell tower fire.

Last week, the Prime Minister announced £400 million of funding to fully fund local authorities and housing associations with the removal and replacement of aluminium composite material cladding – the type used on Grenfell tower.

The Government has also committed to:

  • banning assessments in lieu of tests (also known as desktop studies) if the current consultation – which closed on 25 May – does not demonstrate that they can be safely used
  • ensuring residents have a better mechanism for blowing the whistle on landlords who do not maintain safe buildings
  • changing the law to achieve meaningful and lasting reform of the building regulatory system, with strong sanctions for those who fail to comply
  • inviting views to inform how the government could implement major reform of the regulatory system
  • restructuring building regulations fire safety guidance to ensure it is clear

In the announcement, Mr Brokenshire, said: “It has been deeply moving to hear directly from the Grenfell Tower survivors and community in my first few weeks as Secretary of State.

“This was a terrible tragedy that should never have happened. I welcome Dame Judith Hackitt’s comprehensive report and her calls for fundamental reform in the building sector. I am committed to making that happen as quickly as possible.

“The cladding believed to be on Grenfell Tower was unlawful under existing building regulations. It should not have been used.

“I will ensure there is no room for doubt over what materials can be used safely. Having listened carefully to concerns, I will consult on banning the use of combustible materials in cladding systems on high-rise residential buildings.

“We must ensure the tragedy at Grenfell brings change and I call on the industry to work with me to achieve the urgent reform needed.”

Rufus added: “Surely, nobody would disagree with the Minister’s words. The safety of home owners, hotel guests, office workers and others in high rise buildings is paramount.

“Everyone in the building industry has a responsibility to adopt best safety practices to reduce risk to life and limb.”