Bounced into James Brokenshire’s top-heavy in-tray today is a letter from the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee urging a ban on the use of desk top studies in building safety assessment.
Signed by committee chair Clive Betts, the letter outlines such a ban as applying to desktop studies where cladding materials are under assessment.
In the letter, Betts describes the use of desktop studies as ‘clearly dangerous’ and calls for them to be prohibited for so long as combustible materials are permitted to be used in the cladding of high-rise buildings.
“We are concerned that the over-use of desktop studies may be a contributory factor to a weaker, less stringent regulatory regime and increases the likelihood of dangerous materials being used on high-rise residential buildings,” the letter states.
The letter also reiterates the committee’s view that the use of combustible materials in the cladding of high-rise buildings should be banned altogether as opposed to favouring a risk-based approach to building regulations and guidance.
Already, the committee has written on the issue of building regulations to Dame Judith Hackitt, leading the independent review set up by the government following the Grenfell disaster.
Last month, the government launched a consultation on desktop studies where materials are assessed rather than tested for fire safety.
Backing the committee’s call, LGA chair Lord Porter said the Grenfell disaster exposed a system for ensuring buildings that are safe which is not fit for purpose – with the use and misuse of desktop studies at the heart of the problem.
“The LGA has been clear that desktop studies should no longer be a route to compliance for cladding and insulation systems on high-rise and complex buildings.
“These studies allow the results of tests on one cladding and insulation system to be extrapolated to ‘prove’ a different system is safe, despite a raft of concerns that have been expressed about the reliability of the tests themselves and the competence of those producing the extrapolated studies.
“Unfortunately, upon a close reading of the consultation’s impact assessment there is the admission that the Government’s proposals could result in more desktop studies. Meanwhile the document does not offer a ban as a fully-fledged option.
“It is vital that the Government resists industry pressure that seeks to allow the continued use of these studies as a minimum,” he said.