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NFCC welcomes building safety regulation plans

17 June 2019

THE NATIONAL Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) has welcomed the launch of the Government’s consultation on a new regulatory regime for building safety.

The consultation from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, released alongside a Call for Evidence from the Home Office on the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (FSO), invites views from the public on an extensive number of changes, will run until 31 July 2019. 

Chair of the NFCC, Roy Wilsher said he was pleased to see Government accept Dame Judith Hackitt’s diagnosis that radical culture change is needed, but stressed the new regime requires a risk based, person centred approach. 

"It’s positive to see the Government’s plans will apply beyond the original recommendation of residential buildings 30m and above, to encompass residential buildings down to 18m. However, any new regime needs to be based on a holistic assessment of risk and avoid creating a two tiered standard of safety. At the heart of this should be the protection of vulnerable persons.  

"The NFCC would like to see buildings where vulnerable people sleep (such as hospitals, care homes, and specialised housing) included within the scope of proposed new requirements during the construction phase of buildings. We look forward to supporting government to gather evidence on risk in other types of buildings, and will be engaging extensively with fire and rescue services throughout the consultation."

Phil Loach, Vice Chair of the NFCC agreed, adding there are some aspects of the reforms where further detail is needed.  A key element is the proposal for a new national regulator to provide oversight of the new regulatory regime. 

Mr Loach commented: "The NFCC supports the principle of stronger and more robust oversight of the building regulatory system. Although clear direction on the new proposed body has not been laid out, the NFCC would support a model that utilises local regulation, with a body that can provide consistent national standards and oversight of local delivery."

Mr Wilsher added: "Lifting competency across the board will be vital to achieving a greater level of safety and quality in the built environment. A national regulator could be beneficial in overseeing a system that appropriately regulates the competency of relevant professions in the sector."

Regarding the Fire Safety Order, after 14 years of operation, a range of areas have been identified where it could be strengthened and improved. Central to this is the overlap with the Housing Act 2004 which needs resolving.  

Mr Wilsher continued: "We are pleased the Home Office have requested evidence on Article 38 of the Order (maintenance of protection for Firefighters), which NFCC believes is not fit for purpose in its current form. Article 38 provides that firefighting facilities are subject to maintenance, however at present there is no mechanism to require the installation of firefighting facilities where these have been left out in the first instance. NFCC would like to see this addressed.  

Mr Wilsher concluded: "As we approach the second anniversary of the tragic Grenfell Tower Fire, NFCC look forward to engaging with fire and rescue services and Government further on the development of a new regulatory regime for building safety. The public’s safety is of the highest concern to NFCC and we will continue to advocate for measures believed to be in the public’s best interest."