Editor, IFSEC Global

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James Moore is the Editor of IFSEC Global, the leading online publication for security and fire news in the industry. James writes, commissions, edits and produces content for IFSEC Global, including articles, breaking news stories and exclusive industry reports. He liaises and speaks with leading industry figures, vendors and associations to ensure security and fire professionals remain abreast of all the latest developments in the sector.
March 11, 2021

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“It’s not just a cladding issue” – Fire industry calls for funding to address wider safety faults in high-rise buildings

The wider fire industry, including the ASFP and FPA, is supporting calls for greater funding to be provided to address fire safety failings that have been identified in tall buildings.

The calls come following the announcement of additional funding of £3.5b from the Government to help address cladding remediation on tall buildings.

While welcoming the announcement, the Association of Specialist Fire Protection (ASFP) believes the scheme does not go far enough, since it offers no assistance to pay for other identified fire safety failures, such as problems with fire doors and other compartmentation measures.

Niall Rowan, CEO of the ASFP

ASFP CEO Niall Rowan declares: “The ASFP believes that money should be made available to cover all identified defects and not just cladding. While there is some degree of discussion over whether the statutory guidance regarding cladding is clear or not, there is no such argument about the requirements of compartmentation that are included in Approved Document B and the national equivalents in Wales Scotland and Northern Ireland.

“We welcome the Government’s five point plan to address cladding issues and believe the proposals outlined in the Building Safety Bill will go some way to improve quality and competency within the design, construction and inspection helping to prevent defects from arising in the future. However, we believe that the remediation of identified fire safety failures in existing buildings that are not the fault of the leaseholders or building owners concerned should be supported by appropriate funding.”

Fire safety deficiencies have been highlighted in a wide array of different areas – from basic firestopping procedures not being followed, through to fire doors not being considered fit for purpose. In support of the ASFP’s response, Wrexham Mineral Cables adds that issues such as “inferior fire-resistant cabling” are just one example of other problems that need to be addressed. The company says it has been calling for more stringent testing standards for many years.

Jonathan O’Neill OBE, Managing Director of the Fire Protection Association (FPA), also believes that the measures should apply to all affected buildings – regardless of their height: “It has now been more than three and a half years since the issue of combustible cladding surfaced as an issue for leaseholders. Whether the problems arose due to ambiguous and confusing legislation, a broken regulatory system, ignorance or incompetence in the construction sector, or suppliers of building products gaming the system; what is abundantly clear is that it was of no fault of the leaseholders who continue to face uncertainty despite today’s announcement.

JonathanONeill-FPA-20

Jonathan O Neill MBE, Managing Director of the FPA

“The Government must act now and support all leaseholders, in all affected buildings regardless of their height, with grants to bring this debacle to a close. It should then be on the Government to pursue those responsible through the courts to ensure the money is fully repaid. This has been going on for too long, it is completely unacceptable that we continue to have people living in buildings which are fundamentally unsafe and leaseholders facing financial ruin for believing that we had a regulatory system that was fit for purpose and robust. The FPA has made repeated requests for the Government to ban the use of combustible materials on all high-risk buildings; this situation is clearly of its own making and they must act now to bring this debacle to a close.”

Mike Robinson, the British Safety Council’s Chief Executive, added: “We are pleased the Government has, at last, listened to ours and many other peoples’ much-repeated call that leaseholders should not have to pay to remove unsafe cladding, which is an existing fire problem not of their making. Leaseholders and tenants are already paying unaffordable sums for 24/7 fire wardens, to patrol their buildings and ensure they are safe.

“While the announcement will provide some reassurance to residents of high-rise properties, more pace must now be injected into this work. It is scandalous that four years after Grenfell, we are still talking about removal of unsafe cladding.”

Listen to the latest SHP Podcast discussing the issue with Gill Kernick, below. 

The Future of Fire Safety: download the eBook

Is the fire protection industry adapting to the post-Grenfell reality fast enough? At FIREX International 2019, Europe's only dedicated fire safety event, some of the world's leading fire safety experts covered this theme. This eBook covers the key insights from those discussions on the developments shaping the profession, with topics including:

  • Grenfell Inquiry must yield “bedrock change” – and soon
  • After Grenfell: Jonathan O’Neill OBE on how austerity and policy “on the hoof” are hampering progress
  • Hackitt’s Golden Thread: Fire, facilities and building safety
  • Fire safety community has to “get on board” with technological changes

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