Ministers have announced they are considering a ban on flammable cladding for high-rise buildings just hours after a furious backlash over a review into the Grenfell Tower inferno.
Consultations will be launched into outlawing the material and the desk-top studies used to assess it, Communities Secretary James Brokenshire announced.
It follows a wave of criticism after Dame Judith Hackitt released her report for reform of building regulations in the wake of the June 14 disaster that left 71 dead.
Campaigners branded it a “whitewash” after it failed to recommend either of the measures.
My response to the Hackitt Review and the decision to not ban flammable cladding:— David Lammy (@DavidLammy) May 17, 2018
This review is a betrayal and a whitewash. It is unthinkable and unacceptable that so many people can die in a disaster like Grenfell and one year on flammable cladding has not been banned. (1)
Speaking in the House of Commons three hours after the publication of the review, Mr Brokenshire said new laws would be introduced that delivered “meaningful and lasting” change to the building safety system.
He added: “We are consulting on significantly restricting or banning the use of desk-top studies to assess cladding systems.”
The Cabinet minister told MPs he wanted to ensure there was “no room for doubt” about the materials that could be used on high-rise buildings.
He added: “Having listened carefully to concerns, the Government will consult on banning the use of combustible materials in cladding systems on high-rise residential buildings.”
Shadow housing secretary John Healey said it “beggars belief” that the report “continues to give a green light” to combustible materials on high-rise blocks.
He added: “I say to the Secretary of State: Don’t consult on it – do it.”
Dame Judith found that indifference and ignorance had led to a “race to the bottom” in building safety practices and set out a series of proposals to make high-rise flats safer to live in.
But Labour MP and Grenfell campaigner David Lammy branded her report “a betrayal and a whitewash”.
Grenfell United, the Local Government Association and the Equality and Human Rights Commission were among those who described the report as “disappointing”.
"It is disappointing that Dame Judith has stopped short of recommending a ban on combustible materials and the use of desktop studies, both essential measures to improve safety." @garyporterlga responds to final report of the Hackitt review https://t.co/0j6EEKqSnC #localgov— Local Government Association (@LGAcomms) May 17, 2018
Dame Judith said a ban would “not address the root causes” of the “broken system” of building regulations.
But, responding to criticism of her report, she said she was open to seeing combustible cladding banned in the future.
She added: “If, in order to give them more immediate reassurance that is one issue that needs to be addressed to go even further, so be it, but let’s not lose sight of the fact that we need a more robust regulatory system so that buildings are built safe.
“The next problem may not be cladding and I have tried to fix the system, irrespective of what the next problem might be, not just the problem with cladding.”
Dame Judith, who told reporters she was “not an expert on Grenfell”, called for tougher penalties for those who breach regulations, arguing that the cladding on the tower would not have got through her proposed system.
The review found that some building firms use the ambiguity around the rules to “game the system”, with the primary motivation to “do things as quickly and cheaply as possible” rather than focusing on quality.
Dame Judith also found ignorance about the rules, a lack of clarity about who takes responsibility and inadequate oversight.
“The above issues have helped to create a cultural issue across the sector, which can be described as a ‘race to the bottom’ caused either through indifference, or because the system does not facilitate good practice,” she said.
The review recommended:
– An “outcomes-based approach” to the regulatory approach to be overseen by a new regulator.
– Clearer roles and responsibilities throughout the design and construction process, as well as during a building’s occupation.
– Residents to be consulted over decisions affecting the safety of their home.
– A more rigorous and transparent product testing regime.
– Industry to lead strengthening competence of those involved in building work and to establish an oversight body.