Major changes ahead as Government prepare to get tough over fire safety

Housing Ministry director Offer Stern-Weiner has written a letter to local authorities confirming plans to tighten building regulations in regard to fire safety after existing standards were deemed “not fit for purpose” in an official review. In particular more power of veto will be given to the relevant fire and rescue authority who will be required to pass any plans prior to building.

As a final report from consulting engineer Judith Hackitt is due to be released soon, alongside a government revision of the ‘Approved Document B’ compliance instructions for planners, industry-wide changes will be expected to the way fire safety regulations are incorporated into future projects.

“Shockingly cavalier” attitude to fire safety in schools

A letter addressed to Education Secretary Damian Hinds, written by the Fire Brigades Union in association with the National Education Union, has offered a damning condemnation of the British government’s de-emphasising of fire safety in new build schools. In contrast to those built in Scotland and Wales, which by law must have sprinklers fitted, only 35% of new schools built in England and Northern Ireland contain sprinkler systems to minimise.

New schools without sprinkler systems include Selsey Academy in West Sussex, which is being rebuilt after being burned down two years ago, and Kensington Aldridge Academy, which sits underneath the Grenfell Tower that remains gutted after the tragic 2017 fire. Andy Dark of the Fire Brigade union insists that “the cost of fitting sprinklers represents a very low investment when weighed against the potential threat to life, the damage to buildings and the disruption of children’s education if there is a fire in a school. It is essential that the government act immediately to make it a legal requirement for sprinklers to be fitted in all new school buildings.”

157 social housing towers still identified “dangerous”

According to a report in yesterday’s Guardian, only three out of the 160 towers initially identified as “dangerous” in the wake of the Grenfell tower disaster have been reclad, which in addition to the 150 further blocks classified in the intervening months means that almost 300, housing a sum of tenants into five figures, are assumed to be breaching building fire safety regulations.

Since the disaster on 14th June 2017, which claimed 71 lives, the housing secretary Sajid Javid has confirmed that 36 councils are in the process of applying for funding for recladding and new sprinkler systems, yet only 26 buildings to date have completed or begun works. Lord Porter, chairman of the Local Government Association, has insisted the current government “meet the unexpected exceptional costs” of commissioning the work.