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Industry responds to Hackitt Review

17 May 2018

INDUSTRY BODIES and politicians have offered a mixed response to the findings of the Independent Review of the Building Regulations and Fire Safety.

Earlier today Dame Judith Hackitt published her report, which calls for the creation of a new Joint Competent Authority (JCA) to oversee the management of buildings and calls for tougher penalties for those flouting the Building Regualtions. It also calls for a a new structure for how to manage building safety and calls for more effective testing of products (such as cladding) but does not ban the use of combustible materials. 

Shadow housing secretary John Healey MP slammed the review for failing to recommend a ban on the use of combustible materials in buildings. He said: “It beggars belief that the Government’s building safety review gives the green light to combustible materials on high-rise blocks. 

“While some steps are welcome, this is a missed opportunity to set new safety standards that ensure a disaster like the Grenfell Tower fire can never happen again. Ministers cannot simply accept this report. The recommendations are too weak to overhaul the current system or give the public full confidence that their homes are safe.”

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has described the review as a “major missed opportunity”. RIBA President Ben Derbyshire said: “This Review should have been a defining moment - a set of findings to bring real and meaningful change to the complexity and confusion surrounding core building regulations guidance. 

While there are elements of Dame Judith Hackitt’s Review that we very much welcome, we are extremely concerned that it has failed to act on the urgent need to immediately protect life safety through a more detailed programme of simplified and improved regulations, standards and guidance. 

“The Review recognises that the changes it recommends will require legislative change and take time to fully implement. In the meantime we are left with confusion and lack of clarity. We will be continuing to stress our detailed concerns to Government.”

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) echoed this message, its director general Huw Evans said: “The report does not tackle the fundamental issue of combustible materials used on homes and businesses. We must see a total ban on combustible materials being used on the outside of buildings. Without a ban, insurers, residents and landlords will struggle to have confidence in the regulations in place.”

The Institution of Occupation Safety and Health (IOSH) responded more positively to the findings. IOSH head of policy and public affairs Richard Jones said: “It is now up to the Government to act on these recommendations as we work to ensure we never have another tragic fire like Grenfell Tower. We urge the Government to develop an implementation plan as soon as possible. This must be made publicly available and regular updates should be provided.

“The recommended development of a single enforcement agency (the new Joint Competent Authority) should be part of this. The importance of effective enforcement cannot be overstated. It will help drive up standards, naming persons responsible so they understand that they are accountable.”

Association for Specialist Fire Protection COO Niall Rowan expressed ASFP's support for the review, he said: "The ASFP supports the report as aiming to deliver a better built environment with fire safety given the proper consideration it deserves.

“We believe the focus on high risk residential buildings (HRRBs) is a good place to start, but we would like to see many of the recommendations rolled out progressively to cover the great majority of buildings since the issues raised are applicable to all buildings and not just HRRBs.

“The greater emphasis on considering fire safety early in the design process and so building what was designed is in alignment with the work we have been doing with RIBA on the creating a Fire Safety Overlay for the RIBA Plan of Works. Furthermore, to have a dedicated Dutyholder is also a logical step in coordinating fire safety throughout the construction process.” 

“The ASFP also strongly supports the suggestion that third-party product certification be made mandatory, this is something for which we have been campaigning for many years.”

Local Government Association chairman Lord Porter said: "The LGA has strongly made the case for banning the use of combustible materials on high-rise and complex buildings and for outlawing the use of desktop studies that attempt to approve safety compliance.

“It is great that the Secretary of State has listened to our concerns. He has rightly recognised the need to take action to tackle these two important issues while the long-term reforms to fix our building regulation system, set out in Dame Judith Hackitt’s report today, are put into place.

“We would urge the Government to introduce these bans as quickly as possible as they are the vital and immediate measures needed to make buildings safer today.”