Assistant Editor, IFSEC Global

November 19, 2021

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Building Safety

LFB voices growing concerns over number of new properties being ‘deliberately’ designed to avoid fire safety rules

The London Fire Brigade has expressed mounting concerns over the quantity of new properties being designed to avoid adhering to post-Grenfell fire safety rules.

GrenfellOn Wednesday 14 June 2017, 72 people were killed after a fire engulfed the 24-storey Grenfell Tower block in North Kensington, West London.

After this tragic event, the Government put together the Building Safety Programme, covering an array of measures designed to ensure residents of high-rise buildings feel safe, both now and in the future.

Within the programme the Government set out various guidelines for contractors including:

  • Banning the use of combustible materials in the external walls of high-rise buildings of 18 meters and over (they are now consulting on whether to extend this further, including lowering the threshold from 18 metres to 11)
  • Enforcing that building owners must take immediate steps to ensure their residents’ safety when making decisions on any remedial work that is necessary to do.

Deputy Commissioner, Paul Jennings, told BBC Newsnight that there are currently, “hundreds if not thousands” of new constructions which may have been “deliberately” premeditated to avoid adhering to building safety rules.

Paul continues by saying: “We’ve got examples where we think people are deliberately designing and building their buildings below that 18m, six floor threshold, because they know if they reach that threshold, they would have to put advanced and more intricate fire safety measures in.”

Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove, recently told MPs that the government would be revoking previous advice for buildings designers to check cladding systems on all tower blocks regardless of their height.

Gove also criticised building developers, stating there were questions from the Grenfell inquiry as to whether they had knowingly put “cost reduction before safety.”

From 1st August 2021, Planning Gateway One was implemented as a direct result of the Government commissioned independent review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, led by Dame Judith Hackitt.

Planning Gateway One consists of two key elements:

  • To require the developer to submit a fire statement setting out fire safety considerations specific to the development with a relevant application for planning permission for development which involves one or more relevant buildings
  • To establish the Health and Safety Executive as a statutory consultee for relevant planning applications.

The Housebuilders Federation responded on Newsnight: “Developers meet the building regulations set by the Government without exception. Standards today are considerably more exacting than previous iterations. Building regulations differ dependant on the type of building, but all have resident’s safety at their core.”

A government spokesperson has said: “The safety and wellbeing of residents is our priority, and the Building Safety Bill will strengthen oversight and protections for everyone in high-rise buildings.

“All new buildings of any height must meet building regulations fire safety requirements and we have already banned the use of all combustible materials on external walls of new residential buildings over 18 metres.”

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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