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Government set out implementation plan for building safety

Wednesday 02 January 2019

The Government has announced that there is a need for fundamental reform of the building and fire safety regulatory system. They say that they want a step change: from a passive system centred around compliance with building regulations to a proactive one where developers and building owners take responsibility for ensuring that residents are safe, with stronger assurance provided by a tougher regulatory framework.

The announcement comes following a full review the of the damning Dame Judith Hackett report Building a Safer Future, released in May last year. The Hackett report looked at the regulatory framework around the construction, maintenance and ongoing use of buildings, with a particular focus on multi-occupied, high-rise residential buildings. It found that the system was not fit for purpose, leaving room for those who wish to take short-cuts to do so, and set out 53 recommendations to establish a new regulatory framework and achieve a culture change to create and maintain safe buildings. 

The Government's new implementation plan will largely mirror the Hackett report's recommendations and ultimately create a new regulatory framework putting residents at the heart of the new system of building safety, empowering them with more effective routes for engagement and redress. It will also mean tougher sanctions for those who flout their responsibilities for ensuring the safety of residents. 

Secretary of State for Communities, Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP said:

"There is nothing more important than being safe in your own home and I am determined to improve building safety.

"My plan for stronger, tougher rules will make sure there is no hiding place for those who flout building safety rules.

"By making people responsible and more accountable for safety, we will create a more rigorous system so residents will always have peace of mind that they are safe in their own homes."

A big part of the Government's new approach is to create a Joint Regulators Group, comprising key regulatory partners (HSE, Local Authority Building Control, the Fire and Rescue Services and the Local Government Association). The group will help to pilot new approaches and assist with the transition to a new regulatory framework.

THE ROAD AHEAD

The Implementation Plan sets out the work which they will undertake to deliver fundamental reform to the system that will ensure that residents are safe, and feel safe, in their homes, including:

  • Creation of a stronger and more effective regulatory and accountability framework, which will have responsibility and accountability for keeping people safe at its core. Government will prevent people from flouting the system through tougher oversight and a stronger and more effective sanctions and enforcement regime.
  • Facilitate better understanding of what is required to ensure buildings are safe through clearer standards and guidance, as well as improving the rigour of the product labelling, testing and marketing process to ensure that people working on 10 buildings use safe products.
  • Put residents at the heart of the new regulatory framework through better engagement between them and those managing their buildings, as well as providing more effective routes for escalation and redress when things go wrong. Building owners will need to reassure residents by providing them with better information about the protection measures in place in their buildings.
  • Drive culture change to increase responsibility for building safety, including by improving the competence of those undertaking building work. This will complement the tougher regulatory oversight regime and sharing of good practice. Reform of the whole regime requires all parts of the system – and all those working within it – to change. 
  • For those who live in high-rise residential buildings: an assurance that safety is actively managed and a means of recourse if safety concerns are being ignored; and more information on the safety measures in the building and clarity on their role in ensuring their homes are safe.
  • For those who regulate the buildings: greater powers to intervene and greater ability to pursue those who do not follow the requirements.
  • For those who develop the buildings: a requirement to be explicit about how safety is incorporated in buildings, a clear set of gateway points to engage with the regulators and a transparent recording and handover of safety information.
  • For those who own existing buildings: an active demonstration that the ongoing safety of the building is being managed effectively.
  • For those who provide materials used in construction: greater oversight that products are safe and are being marketed as safe.
  • For all of the above, a clearer set of responsibilities with accountabilities at the right level and clearer guidance to operate within.

THE SCOPE OF THE NEW REGIME - FURTHER CONSULTATIONS PLANNED

In the spring, informed by ongoing research and the input of the Joint Regulators Group, the Government will consult on:

  • the scope of the new regime and whether they should go further than the initial scope set out by the Review, to include other multi-occupied residential buildings where a significant fire or structural failure could put many people’s lives at risk;
  • proposals for creating dutyholder responsibilities that will set out in law who owns and needs to manage building safety risks at different stages of the lifecycle of the buildings in scope;
  • proposals for a stronger and more effective enforcement and sanctions regime;
  • how the ‘gateways’ proposed in the Review could be implemented in practice
  • what a safety case regime would look like to provide assurance that safety risks are being managed appropriately for buildings in scope during their lifecycle;
  • making fire and rescue authorities statutory consultees in the planning process for multioccupied residential buildings of 30 metres or more (10 storeys or more) in advance of the establishment of the new regulatory framework;
  • proposals for managing the provision of building control within the new regulatory framework and the role of Approved Inspectors in supporting dutyholders;
  • options for a more effective regulatory framework to oversee the new regime, including the option of establishing a statutory Joint Competent Authority (as recommended by the Review) that would sit at the centre of a stronger regulatory framework;
  • proposals for a ‘digital by default’ standard of record keeping for the design and construction of buildings in scope and to ensure that this digital record is maintained throughout the occupation of buildings;
  • proposals for how dutyholders would collect, hold, analyse and make available the data that constitutes the ‘golden thread’; and
  • for all buildings, proposals to clarify and strengthen existing regimes to ensure that fire safety is adequately prioritised, and risks are addressed. 

BUILDING REGULATIONS AND GUIDANCE

Last year, Government consulted on a clarified version of the Building Regulations fire safety guidance (Approved Document B) and now as part of the package of measures announced just before Christmas, they have published a call for evidence to inform a full technical review of that guidance, including taking account of emerging findings from the Grenfell Tower Inquiry. The call for evidence closed on 1 March 2019.

Over the next 12 months, informed by stakeholder engagement, the Government also say they will:

  • consult in the spring on options for a new governance structure, for oversight of building regulations and guidance;
  • set out a work plan for reviews of Building Regulations Approved Document guidance in line with the spirit of the recommendations of the Review and the accompanying expert group report;
  • establish a ‘standards committee’ to advise the Secretary of State on new and existing construction product and system standards; 
  • bring forward proposals to establish consistent legislative powers which cover construction products;
  • consider options for national regulatory oversight of construction products to ensure that construction products are manufactured to the standards they should perform at;
  • work with industry to develop minimum standards for third-party certification schemes for fire protection products essential to building safety. These standards will be led by industry and will cover manufacturing, installation and inspection of products;
  • encourage all buildings in scope to use third-party certified fire safety products essential to building safety; and
  • ensure that UK notified bodies and suppliers of products produce more accessible summaries of performance.

RESIDENTS TO HAVE A GREATER VOICE

On 18 December 2018, Government launched a call for evidence inviting views on how residents are supported to meet their responsibilities to keep their homes and buildings safe. The consultation closes on 12 February 2019.

In the spring, informed by ongoing research and the input from the Residents’ Reference Panel, the Government will:

  • consult on requirements for dutyholders to proactively provide residents with critical safety information about their building and more detailed information related to the structural and fire safety of residents’ homes, based on a presumption of openness, unless there are good reasons not to, for example security;
  • consult on requirements for dutyholders to put in place a resident engagement strategy to support the principle of transparency of information for residents, as well as effective communication and involvement in decisions about their building; and
  • consult on options for a clear and quick escalation route for residents’ building safety concerns, including the relationship with the new regulatory framework for building safety and the interactions with existing regulators and redress schemes.

Finally, over the next six months, the Government have promised to review industry’s proposals and take a view on whether they deliver a coherent approach to assessing competence across all disciplines and provide assurance that those working on multi-occupied high-rise residential buildings have sufficient competence, in line with Dame Judith’s vision. They will also consider whether legislation is necessary to underpin a new system to assure competence.

DOWNLOAD FULL IMPLEMENTATION PLAN