UKCW 2018

NEC BIRMINGHAM   09-11 OCTOBER 2018

grenfell 2

The government is to consult on banning flammable cladding, hours after a review into the Grenfell tragedy failed to recommend such a move.

Housing Secretary James Brokenshire announced the plan "having listened carefully" to others on the issue.

Earlier, a building regulations review stopped short of proposing a ban - a move criticised by Grenfell survivors.

But Labour's shadow housing secretary John Healey said: "Don't consult on it, do it."

Architects, building firms and Grenfell survivors had backed a ban on using combustible materials in tower blocks.

Flammable cladding is thought to have contributed to the rapid spread of fire in west London's Grenfell Tower last June, in which 71 people died.

A subsequent survey identified hundreds of other buildings where cladding failed safety tests.

The Royal Institute of British Architects called for a ban on flammable cladding, as well as a requirement for sprinklers to be fitted, and a second means of escape for high-rise residential buildings.

Announcing the consultation, Mr Brokenshire said: "We must create a culture that truly puts people and their safety first, that inspires confidence and, yes, rebuilds public trust."

He said the building regulations review, and the changes that will come from it, were "important first steps, helping us ensure that when we say 'never again', we mean it".

Mr Healey called for an immediate ban, saying: "We owe it to the Grenfell residents, and we owe it to residents living today in other tower blocks with the same Grenfell-style cladding."

Shahin Sadafi, chairman of Grenfell United, which represents survivors and the bereaved, said he was "disappointed" there was no immediate ban.

"Survivors, bereaved and many experts have called for it and they need to listen," he said.

Earlier, a government-commissioned report into building regulations had called for a "radical rethink" of the safety system.

The report's author, Dame Judith Hackitt, said indifference and ignorance had led to cost being prioritised over safety and called for a regulator.

Following criticism of her report, she said she was open to seeing combustible cladding banned in future, adding: "I have tried to fix the system, irrespective of what the next problem might be, not just the problem with cladding."

Earlier, Dame Judith told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "It is about more than simply issuing a ban on certain materials.

"Cladding is one issue - there are many other features and many other shortcuts that could result in other disasters in the future which we need to address as part of this and it needs a whole system change."

Responding to the Hackitt report, the prime minister's spokesman said the current regulatory system was not "fit for purpose" and major reform was needed.

He added: "We are committing to making sure that the necessary changes happen as quickly as possible."

'She didn't listen'

The government's announcement of a consultation on a ban followed criticism of the report's recommendations by Mr Sadafi, who said his group was "disappointed and saddened that she (Dame Judith) she didn't listen to us and she didn't listen to other experts".

Opposition MPs also criticised the review's recommendations. Labour shadow housing minister Sarah Jones told the BBC that the report was a "huge wasted opportunity" and that Dame Judith's recommendations did not go far enough.

Labour MP and Grenfell campaigner David Lammy said it was "unfathomable" that the review had not recommended an outright ban on combustible materials.

The independent review looked into regulations around the design, construction and management of buildings in relation to fire safety.

The final 156-page report found that:

  • Roles and responsibilities for building safety are unclear
  • Regulations and guidance are "ambiguous and inconsistent" and are "misunderstood and misinterpreted"
  • There is ignorance about the rules governing the industry
  • The process that drives compliance with the regulations are "weak and complex"
  • Competence (of people in the system) is "patchy"
  • The process for testing and certifying products is "disjointed, confusing, unhelpful and lacking any sort of transparency"
  • Product testing and marketing is "opaque and insufficient"
  • Residents' voices go unheard

Dame Judith - a senior engineer who used to chair the Health and Safety Executive - said: "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."

But she did not call for a ban on materials capable of burning from tall buildings, saying that prohibiting certain practices would "not address the root causes" of the problems.

Dame Judith recommended a "simple and effective mechanism" for driving building safety, and called for incentives for the right behaviour and tougher penalties for those who breach regulation.

Dame Judith's appointment to lead the review had been met with some criticism due to her former role as director of the Energy Saving Trust. The organisation promotes insulation containing a foam known as polyisocyanurate (PIR), blamed for fuelling the fire at Grenfell.

But the government defended Dame Judith as "an independent and authoritative voice".

Her review was aimed at making sure similar events do not happen in the future. It is separate to the judge-led inquiry into the Grenfell fire, which will start taking evidence on 21 May.

On Wednesday, the government announced a £400m operation to remove dangerous cladding from tower blocks owned by councils and housing associations.

 

Source: BBC

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