On 2 April 2020, Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick MP, announced ambitious steps to further reform the building safety system with the ‘biggest changes in a generation’ to ensure residents are safe in their homes. The new measures will require all new high-rise blocks of flats over 11m tall to install mandatory sprinkler systems and consistent wayfinding signage.
The reforms are designed to incentivise compliance and to better enable the use of enforcement powers and sanctions, including prosecution where the rules are not followed.
The Housing Secretary will hold a roundtable with mortgage lenders to work on an agreed approach to mortgage valuations for properties in buildings under 18m tall, providing certainty for owners affected by vital building safety work.
The president-elect of the Chartered Institute of Building (CIB), Mark Beard, has said today that he would like to see the new safety standards go even further. The focus of the proposed new measures is on high-rise residential buildings, which the CIB welcomes. However, Mr Beard reiterates that ‘all building occupants need to be safe and feel safe, regardless of use.’
Mr Beard also called for a practical approach that has wider industry buy-in: ‘the industry itself needs to take responsibility for ensuring these standards are rigorously applied in practice. This means getting it right first time, not waiting for enforcement action to be taken’.
Existing fire safety reforms
The above measures build on other recent announcements including:
– Providing £1 billion in 2020/21 to support the remediation of unsafe non-ACM (aluminium composite material) cladding materials on high-rise buildings. This is in addition to the £600 million already available for remediation of high-rise buildings with unsafe ACM cladding;
– Naming building owners who have been slow to act in removing unsafe ACM cladding; and
– The introduction of the Fire Safety Bill – you can read more about this in our recent update.
The government’s construction expert, David Hancock, has been appointed to review the progress of removing unsafe ACM claddings from buildings.
We will keep you updated on progress with these new measures and the Fire Safety Bill as they develop.
If you work in the building industry, currently own or intend to own a property over 11m tall and would like to know more about your legal obligations relating to fire safety, please do get in touch. Partner and Head of Regulatory, Kathryn Gilbertson, is recognised as a ‘leading light’ in the industry for her fire safety expertise.