Government to overhaul building regulations after Grenfell fire review
Review head Dame Judith Hackitt says her interim findings flagged up a focus on cost-cutting.
The Government has pledged to overhaul building regulations after a review prompted by the Grenfell Tower fire flagged up “systemic failure”.
Current rules concerning the construction and maintenance of high-rise blocks were said to be “not fit for purpose” and left room for people to cut corners.
Dame Judith Hackitt, who is leading the probe, said a change in culture was needed to ensure safety is prioritised over costs in the construction industry.
She published her findings in an interim report, along with a series of recommendations which were accepted in full by communities secretary Sajid Javid.
The report said: “Many of the findings to date clearly identify the need for a major cultural shift across all of those who are part of the system within the construction, operation and maintenance of complex and high-risk buildings.
“The focus must shift from achieving lowest cost to providing buildings which are safe and fit for people to live in for years to come.”
During a hearing of the Communities and Local Government Committee, Dame Judith described the issues identified by her review as amounting to “systemic failure”.
In the report’s recommendations, she said existing documents should be “streamlined” to make them more understandable and tightened up so they were less open to interpretation.
She claimed that the building trade was suffering from competency issues and proper accreditation was needed for those overseeing fire safety in the design, construction, inspection and maintenance of all high-rise buildings.
Advice from the fire service should also be central to the design of any new building, it was suggested.
Mr Javid responded to the findings during a statement to the House of Commons, saying: “The current system is complex and confusing, a situation that has developed over many years and under successive governments.
“Today, Dame Judith has published her interim findings, which show that there is a need for significant reform.
“And I can confirm that the Government has accepted all of Dame Judith’s recommendations.”
The review was ordered in the wake of the June 14 disaster, which raised fears that unclear industry standards had allowed dangerous material to be installed on towers.
It is suspected that pressure to drive down the price of refurbishing Grenfell Tower and vague regulations led to cheaper, flammable material being installed on its exterior.
Seventy-one people died when a fire tore through the west London block, while a subsequent safety operation identified hundreds more buildings with similar cladding systems.
A final report is expected to follow in spring 2018, focusing on overhauling the regulatory system and improving safety standards.
The report was welcomed by both the Local Government Association, which represents hundreds of councils, and the National Housing Federation, the trade association for social housing providers.
Many high-rise towers across the UK are owned by local authorities or housing associations.
But Labour said the changes should have been implemented after a fire at Lakanal House in south London left six dead in 2009.
Shadow housing secretary John Healey said: “Ministers ignored the recommendations then and their promise to issue new regulations was never honoured.”