The UK Government has been “far too slow” in reforming the building and fire safety regime and is still not doing enough to remove dangerous cladding from existing buildings, MPs have warned.
It has now been over two years since a fire at the 24-storey Grenfell Tower block of public housing flats in West London caused at least 80 deaths and over 70 injuries (see related article). And now, the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee (HCLGC) has released a report calling on the Government to recognise the need for urgency.
According to Government figures from June, there are 327 high-rise residential and publicly owned buildings with ACM cladding systems unlikely to meet Building Regulations that are yet to be remediated.
The HCLGC report warns that the £200 million that the Government has set aside for the remediation of private sector residential buildings with ACM cladding will not be sufficient.
It also accuses the Government of failing to provide funding for other forms of potentially dangerous cladding materials currently found on hundreds more existing residential and high-risk buildings.
As it stands, Ministers have committed funding for the removal of ACM cladding but not other potentially dangerous systems, such as high-pressure laminate (HPL) cladding, which are also highly combustible.
Chair of the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee, Clive Betts MP said the Government was far behind where it should be in every aspect of its response to Grenfell.
“Further delay is simply not acceptable. The Government cannot morally justify funding the replacement of one form of dangerous cladding, but not others. It should immediately extend its fund to cover the removal and replacement of any form of combustible cladding – as defined by the Government’s combustible cladding ban – from any high-rise or high-risk building.”
The report states that a new regulatory regime must provide “greater accountability, robust oversight and strong sanctions, whilst also giving greater clarity over building standards.” It also stresses that building operators are in need of better guidance on what materials are safe and what fire safety measures are necessary.
Adrian Dobson, representing the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), said nothing significant—other than the combustible cladding ban—had changed in the building regulations since June 2017.
“We have had one helpful change, which is the restriction on combustible materials, but other than that the regulatory regime and the regulations remain absolutely the same. We presumably have not only unsafe buildings out there, but we are potentially still constructing unsafe buildings.”
Betts said much more progress should also have been made on developing a comprehensive building and fire safety framework.
“This is simply not good enough. It has been over two years since the fire at Grenfell Tower, and more than a year since the publication of the Final Report of the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, and yet the Government has only just published a consultation into its proposals for reform of the building safety regulatory system.”
“The Government must pick up the pace of reform, before it is too late.”