MPs call on Government to ‘be true to your promises’ over fire safety

In a letter to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, a group of MPs have urged government not to change regulations and allow ‘desktop studies’.

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A cross-party letter has urged government not to make reforms to fire safety regulations that “could make another tower block fire more likely”.

Co-ordinated by David Lammy, the letter was shown to the Independent over the weekend.

The letter follows confirmation that ministers are to consult on allowing the continued use of desktop studies.

Desktop studies have caused some tension in the industry, as critics say it allows developers to bypass more comprehensive testing.

In December, an interim report of an independent review into building regulations carried out by Dame Judith Hackitt said the Government should “significantly restrict the use of desktop studies” to ensure “they are only used where appropriate and with sufficient, relevant test evidence.”

The Local Government Association said the use of the studies “raises serious questions about the appropriateness of a route to compliance which does not depend on an actual fire test.”

On the other side of the fence, there were those who said the studies should still be allowed.

The Construction Industry Council said: “The need for desktop assessments is clear, particularly in the situation where requirements are made more stringent … The lack of capacity for large scale fire tests also makes the desktop assessments necessary.

“However, desktop assessments or judgements on extended application need to be of high quality, and carried out by competent professionals.”

Reports suggest Government is planning to “revise the wording” on the use of desktop studies in a key document, known as Approved Document B, that explains how companies should meet safety regulations.

In a letter to Housing and Communities Secretary Sajid Javid, the 47 MPs wrote: “In the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire we find it unfathomable that the Government’s response would be to make building regulations weaker and more lenient when it comes to the use of combustible materials on high rise buildings and tower blocks.

“We are deeply concerned about the culture of cost-cutting and unsafe practices that came to light post-Grenfell, and we await the publication of Dame Judith Hackitt’s review of building safety regulations.

“The Hackitt Review’s interim report called on the Government to ‘significantly restrict’ the use of desktop studies to approve changes to cladding, and we urge you to ensure that the Government will not make any changes to regulations that could result in combustible materials being cleared for use on tower blocks in our constituencies without a fire test taking place.

“Such changes would be totally unacceptable, highly dangerous and would put lives at risk.

“We call on you to be true to your promises and ensure that no changes are made to fire safety and building regulations that could make another tower block fire more likely.”

Labour MP David Lammy, who co-ordinated the letter, said: “I am frankly shocked that the Government are even considering desktop studies.

“Sajid Javid promised us that the Government will take every precaution to avoid another tragedy, and he will be held to that promise.”

A Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government spokesperson said: “Dame Judith Hackitt recommended in her interim report that we should significantly restrict the use of desktop studies.

“We agree with this, and will shortly be consulting on revised guidance.”

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