Grenfell Tower: Government will consult on cladding after Hackitt report fails to recommend ban
Dame Judith Hackitt has delivered her final recommendations for improving fire safety in the built environment, commissioned following the Grenfell Tower fire.
The report concluded that indifference and ignorance led to a “race to the bottom” in building safety practices with cost prioritised over safety and said there needs to a “radical rethink of the whole system and how it works”. But it stopped short of recommending an explicit ban on combustible cladding.
Immediately after the report was released the Government announced it would consult on banning combustible cladding.
Housing Secretary James Brokenshire announced the plan “having listened carefully” to others on the issue. Labour’s shadow Housing Secretary John Healey countered by saying: “Don’t consult on it, do it.”
This video outlines seven key findings from the report.
- A new regulator is needed to oversee construction and building management. The priority is 2,000 – 3,000 ‘high risk’ residential buildings with more than 10 stories.
- Roles and responsibilities for building safety are unclear.
- Regulations and guidance are ‘ambiguous and inconsistent.
- Regulation and compliance processed are ‘weak and complex’.
- Competence across the supply chain is ‘patchy’.
- Product testing and marking is ‘opaque and insufficient’.
- Residents are not being listened to.
The housing secretary went on to say that ministers will also look to ban the use of desktop studies, provided the current consultation, which closes on 25 May does not demonstrate that they can be safely used.
He added the Government will look to ensure residents have a better mechanism for blowing the whistle on landlords who do not maintain safe buildings and there will be a change in the law to achieve meaningful and lasting reform of the building regulatory system, with strong sanctions for those who fail to comply.
“It has been deeply moving to hear directly from the Grenfell Tower survivors and community in my first few weeks as secretary of state,” said Mr Brokenshire.
“This was a terrible tragedy that should never have happened. I welcome Dame Judith Hackitt’s comprehensive report and her calls for fundamental reform in the building sector. I am committed to making that happen as quickly as possible.
“The cladding believed to be on Grenfell Tower was unlawful under existing building regulations. It should not have been used,” he added.
“I will ensure there is no room for doubt over what materials can be used safely. Having listened carefully to concerns, I will consult on banning the use of combustible materials in cladding systems on high-rise residential buildings.”
John Healey added that it was 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,” said Mr Healey. “The recommendations are too weak to overhaul the current system or give the public full confidence that their homes are safe.”
The report went on to say: “There is insufficient focus on delivering the best quality building possible, in order to ensure that residents are safe, and feel safe.”
Dame Judith’s independent review of building regulations was commissioned in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower tragedy last summer.
The review published an interim report in December and since then, there have been numerous calls for it recommend the banning of the combustible cladding materials.
Referencing the subject of cladding, Dame Judith wrote: “This is definitely not just a question of the specification of cladding systems, but of an industry that has not reflected and learned for itself, not looked to other sectors.”
“It is essential that this industry now works to implement a truly robust and assured approach to building the increasingly complex structures in which people live.”
The report calls for a new regulatory framework with a stronger focus on “creating and maintaining safe buildings” and incentives for the right behaviours.
In addition, it calls for a less prescriptive, outcomes-based approach to the regulatory framework to be overseen by a new regulator that can drive the right behaviours.
It also recommends residents be consulted and involved in decisions affecting the safety of their home and listened to if they have concerns.
And it also advocates a more “effective testing regime” with clearer labelling and product traceability, including a regular review of test methods.
Responding to Dame Judith’s final report, the Chairman of the Local Government Association (LGA), Lord Porter, said it was “disappointing” that Dame Judith has stopped short of recommending a ban on combustible materials and the use of desktop studies.
“The Government should nevertheless act without delay to introduce a temporary ban on the use of combustible materials on complex and high-rise buildings and until we have a regulatory and testing system which is fit for the 21st Century.
“As the use and misuse of desktop studies has been at the heart of the problem, the LGA also remains clear that the use of desktop studies that attempt to approve safety compliance must also be banned.”
While the Director General of the Association of British Insurers (ABI), Huw Evans, commented: “Today’s 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 report was published a day after the Government announced it will fully fund the estimated £400 million cost of removing and replacing unsafe cladding by councils and housing associations.
“This money will ensure local authorities and housing associations are being given the support they need to get this work done now as well as removing the uncertainty around funding,” said Housing Secretary, James Brokenshire.
To read the final report by Dame Judith, click here.
Should Dame Hackitt have recommended a ban on combustible cladding? Have your say…
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