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British Safety Council welcomes risk-based focus on building safety

17 August 2021

NEW PLANNING requirements relating to fire safety have been welcomed by the British Safety Council. They form part of the most significant changes to building safety regulation in 40 years and are aimed at ensuring that all future high-rise developments consider fire safety at the earliest stages of planning.

As reported by Fire Safety Matters, the planning requirements (commonly known as Planning Gateway One) have been developed to help prevent any more tragedies like the one that occurred at Grenfell Tower in June 2017 where 72 people tragically lost their lives. The Public Inquiry into that incident, of course, is ongoing.

The British Safety Council welcomes the advent of an explicitly risk-based building safety regime that ensures fire safety considerations are prioritised at every stage in the development of high-rise buildings. In an official statement on its website, the organisations confirms: “We urge the Government to introduce the remaining changes to building safety regulation without delay and make certain those legally responsible for buildings ensure fire and structural safety risks are effectively managed and appropriately funded.”

Commissioned by the Government to investigate risk in medium and lower-rise buildings, new advice emerging from fire safety experts has indicated that there’s no systemic risk of fire in blocks of flats below 18 metres. This may not provide sufficient comfort to leaseholders in medium and lower-rise buildings who’ve faced difficulty in selling, anxiety at the potential cost of remediation work and concern at the safety of their homes.

Although the intervention is designed to reduce ‘needless’ and costly remediation in lower rise buildings, in turn helping flat owners to buy, sell or re-mortgage their homes, the British Safety Council believes that the decision by the Government to relax requirements should not be influenced primarily by cost considerations. Safety factors must be the overriding consideration.

Improvement in standards

Mike Robinson, CEO at the British Safety Council, said: “It’s high-time the Government improved the standards of safety for people's homes through a regulatory system that provides essential oversight, from a building's initial design right through to construction and operation. If properly regulated, monitored and resourced, this should make homes safer in the future and, of equal importance, make residents feel safe in their homes.”

Robinson went on to comment: “In the wake of new advice, the Government’s decision to no longer require EWS-1 Forms for buildings below 18 metres in height should be kept under regular review to ensure that any changes in risk are properly accounted for and managed accordingly.”

He concluded: “The elephant in the room continues to be who pays for the removal of unsafe cladding from buildings below 18 metres. Currently, leaseholders are expected to pay £50 per month towards this work. This is a grave injustice. It’s only right that the Government pays the full cost of remediation up front for what is a historical defect. To not do so would simply be wrong.”