15 August 2019 #Construction
Following Dame Judith Hackitt’s Final Report and the government’s Implementation Plan, this summer the government published a consultation on proposals for reform of the building safety regulatory system, which closed at the end of July 2019. The Home Office also issued an accompanying call for evidence on the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety Order) 2005, seeking views from those involved in the fire safety sector on the effectiveness and application of the current Fire Safety Order, with a view to providing a new regulatory framework for the ongoing management of fire safety in non-domestic premises and the common areas in multi-occupancy residential buildings.
The proposals in the consultation build on the recommendations in the Hackitt report and the steps the government has already taken, as described in chapter 1 of the consultation, and cover 5 main areas.
The Hackitt Report recommends new requirements should apply to building over 10 storeys (30m), but the government wants to extend this to all multi-occupancy residential 18m or more (6 storeys). The government also wants to design the system to allow other multi-occupancy high risk buildings, such as hospitals, residential educational buildings, or prisons, to be included in the future, although they will not be included from the outset.
Chapter 4 sets out proposals for how the new system will ensure residents receive the right safety information about their building, with key information provided by the accountable person and more detailed information available by requesting it from the accountable person. There will be limited grounds for refusing to provide this detailed information (e.g. security risk or that it would divulge personal information).
Residents will also be able to raise any opinions or concerns about the safety of their building, in accordance with the accountable person’s Resident Engagement Strategy, and not be ignored. They will be able to take urgent safety concerns to the new building safety regulator (see 4 below) if the accountable person fails to deal with them properly.
The government recognises that residents have a key role in keeping their buildings safe and consulted on proposals for an obligation on residents to cooperate with the work of the accountable person to keep the building safe.
The proposals in chapter 5 provide for a building safety regulator with responsibility for ensuring that the new regulations are followed, that those responsible have the right skills and knowledge for the job, and oversight of building safety throughout England. The new regulator will also be responsible for advising government on which buildings should be included in the new regime.
Chapter 5 also includes proposals for stronger regulation of construction products, by making manufacturer’s responsibilities (labelling and information on safe use) clear in legislation, strengthening national regulation of construction products with a national complaints and enforcement system, and setting minimum standards for independent assurance schemes.
In chapter 6 the government proposes to create new criminal offences to ensure that dutyholders comply with their responsibilities, and give the new regulator powers to take quick and effective action, through fines and other financial penalties, when the new regime is not complied with.
The government also proposes making it easier to take action where building work does not comply with building regulations standards, by giving local authorities more time to serve enforcement notices, and enabling private individuals to make a claim for damages where work has not met building regulations standards and they have suffered harm as a result.
The deadline for responses to the consultation has now passed. Key industry bodies have provided and published their responses, including CIC, CIOB, RIBA, CIAT, BESA, the National Housing Federation, CIH, the Royal Town Planning Institute, and CIBSE
The responses published are broadly supportive of the recommendations and proposals, consistent with previous responses to the Hackitt Report. However, the government has been encouraged to be more ambitious go further in its reforms. In particular, there are concerns that: