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Scottish Government decides to consult on external wall systems

03 August 2021

THE SCOTTISH Government’s latest consultation seeks to obtain the views and opinions of stakeholders on a review of building standards relating to the fire safety of cladding in order to help ensure the safety of people in and around Scotland’s buildings.

The consultation covers five main areas:

*the wording of mandatory standard 2.7 relating to fire spread on external walls

*consideration of a definition and ban on the highest risk metal composite material cladding panels

*options for improving standards and guidance on cladding systems, including the continued role of the large-scale fire test

*consequential matters (combustible exemptions)

*impact assessments

The proposed changes outlined in the consultation aim to improve fire safety for the design and construction of all buildings in relation to external wall cladding systems, in turn making them safer for all those individuals in and around buildings in the event of an outbreak of fire.

Following the tragic events at Grenfell Tower in June 2017, a Ministerial Working Group was set up to oversee a review of the building and fire regulatory frameworks. The constituent members also oversee any other relevant matters and make any recommendations for improvements to help ensure that people are safe in Scotland’s buildings.

In 2018, the building standards (fire safety) review panel (a sub-group of the Ministerial Working Group) recommended to ministers that the building regulations relating to external fire spread (standard 2.7) did not require amending, but it did recommend that the supporting guidance in the technical handbooks could be strengthened.

Key changes

The key changes in relation to cladding introduced on 1 October 2019 were as follows:

*lowering the height at which combustible cladding can be used from 18 metres to 11 metres to align with firefighting from the ground

*tighter controls over the combustibility of cladding systems on hospitals, residential care buildings, entertainment and assembly buildings regardless of building height

More recently, Kevin Stewart (minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning) announced at the Local Government and Communities Committee Meeting on 4 September 2020 that a panel of fire experts would be convened to consider a ban on the highest risk cladding materials through the Building Regulations and to review the role of the large-scale fire test BS 8414.

This latest consultation reflects the outcomes and proposals of the expert panel.

The Scottish Government is now seeking the views of any organisation or individual with an interest in ensuring building standards legislation and associated technical handbook guidance fully addresses the issues raised in relation to the design and construction of buildings as well as the safety of people in (and around) buildings in the event of fire spread on to external wall cladding systems.

*The consultation paper can be read in full here