Councils ‘can’t have sole oversight’ of high rise building inspection

Leading building control body voices concern at Grenfell risk “solution failure” it says is inherent in the Hackitt review.

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Sole oversight of inspections on high rise buildings can’t be left to “underfunded, overstretched, short-staffed and under-qualified” councils if another Grenfell is to be avoided, a leading building control body says.

The Association of Consultant Approved Inspectors (ACAI) says so in response to evidence given by Dame Judith Hackitt and Housing Minister Kit Malthouse to the Commons Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee.

To ACAI, the Hackitt Review fails to provide a solution which will effectively make the most of the competence and standards its author praises.

In the session on the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, Dame Judith accepted that independent Approved Inspectors (AIs) would have an important role to play in a future system of building regulations, confirming that AIs currently adhere to higher competency standards than their local authority counterparts.

“They do have a point when they say that their levels of competence are higher than those of local authority building control,” she said.

However, Dame Judith rejected claims from the ACAI that independent Approved Inspectors would have a reduced role in signing off high rise buildings under her proposals, claiming that they would probably have “more work” after their implementation.

Speaking after the session, ACAI Chairman Paul Wilkins said that though pleased at Dame Judith’s recognition of a high level of competence in the private sector, there were concerns that the Review – which the Government has accepted in full – fails to provide a solution which will effectively make the most of the competence and standards which she praises.

“While she claims that AIs will have more work, it is not clear how this will play out in practice nor is it obvious how local authorities will be able to manage the additional workload.

“Fundamentally, piling more responsibility onto underfunded, overstretched, short-staffed and under-qualified local authorities will not lead to safer buildings,” said Wilkins.

“We urge ministers to review its decision to hand sole oversight of inspections on high rise buildings to local authorities if we are to avoid another Grenfell-style tragedy,” he said.

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