Government to introduce Building Safety and Fire Safety Bills

The two bills see housing see housing get a few mentions where previously it had been put to one side.

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The government is to introduce a new Building Safety Bill and a Fire Safety Bill.

As Boris Johnson reveals his plans for government with his new majority, housing gets a few mentions where previously it had been put to one side.

The government says the Building Safety Bill will “place new and enhanced regulatory regimes for building safety and construction products, and ensure residents have a stronger voice in the system”.

The Bill, fuelled by the fire in Grenfell Tower, sets out to “learn the lessons” of the tragedy and strengthen “the whole regulatory system for building safety, including fundamental changes to the regulatory framework for high-rise residential buildings”.

The aim of the Bill is to also prompt a change in “industry culture to ensure accountability and responsibility and ensuring residents are safe in their homes”.

The main elements would be:

  • An enhanced safety framework for high-rise residential buildings, taking forward the recommendations from Dame Judith Hackitt’s independent review of building safety, and in some areas going further by:
    • Providing clearer accountability and stronger duties for those responsible for the safety of high-rise buildings throughout the building’s design, construction, and occupation, with clear competence
      requirements to maintain high standards
    • Giving residents a stronger voice in the system, ensuring their concerns are never ignored and they fully understand how they can contribute to maintaining safety in their buildings
    • Strengthening enforcement and sanctions to deter non-compliance with the new regime, hold the right people to account when mistakes are made, and ensure they are not repeated
    • Developing a new stronger and clearer framework to provide national oversight of construction products, to ensure all products meet high performance standards
    • Developing a new system to oversee the whole built environment, with local enforcement agencies and national regulators working together to ensure that the safety of all buildings is improved
    • Legislating to require that developers of new-build homes must belong to a New Homes Ombudsman

The Fire Safety Bill, also announced in the speech, is to “ensure an appalling tragedy like Grenfell can never happen again”.

The Bill hints at the support of the findings of the Grenfell Tower Public Inquiry Phase One Report, released earlier this year.

Outlined as the “main benefits of the Bill”, there is mention of providing residents with “reassurance” that lessons have been learned as well as making clear building owners and managers know they are “responsible for assessing the risks of external walls and fire doors”.

The main elements of the Bill are:

  • Clarifying that the scope of the Fire Safety Order includes the external walls of the building, including cladding, and fire doors for domestic premises of multiple occupancy
  • Strengthening the relevant enforcement powers to hold building owners and managers to account
  • Providing a transitional period for building owners and managers (the ‘responsible person’) and Fire and Rescue Services to put in place the infrastructure for these changes

Alan Jones, RIBA President, said of the Bills: “We await more detail on the new fire safety Bills outlined.

“New legislation must take a holistic view of the issues and urgently introduce clear and robust regulations.

“We have been clear that action is long overdue: England continues to lag behind other countries in the UK and across the world on fire safety, putting lives at risk.”

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