NFCC welcomes Government plans to improve building safety standards

Responding to announcements made by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick, in the Commons on Monday 20 January, Roy Wilsher, National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) Chair, said: “NFCC welcomes the announcements made this week by the Secretary of State to introduce new building safety measures.”

NFCC has been clear in our submissions to Government over the last two years, including our response to Dame Judith Hackitt’s Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, that fundamental reform of the building safety system is desperately needed.

Mark Hardingham, Chair of the NFCC Protection and Business Safety Committee added, “I am pleased to see the impact the NFCC’s Building Safety Team is having in influencing the Minister’s announcement. "

NFCC lead for Automatic Fire Suppression Systems, Gavin Tomlinson agreed, noting “It is a big step in the right direction that the Secretary of State has taken on board our evidence on the gap in fire safety for buildings between 11 and 18 metres and the benefits of sprinklers. Sprinklers should be mandatory in all new residential buildings from 11 metres (4 floors) and above. We welcome the Secretary of State’s announcement that he is minded to introduce this change.”

“I am also pleased to see a review of the height threshold for the combustible cladding ban included in these proposals. However, NFCC remains of the view that even where buildings are currently lower than 18 metres, it is still necessary to demonstrate that the external walls of the building adequately resist the spread of fire.”

Mr Wilsher went on to welcome the announcement of the new Building Safety Regulator and stressed, “the role and responsibilities of the new Regulator will be key to ensuring the future system can deliver safe buildings. There is still more detail needed before we will be fully assured the new regulator will drive and deliver the necessary change. Government must be careful to ensure the new Regulator does not inadvertently create a two tier fire safety system or divert resources from other important protection work.

NFCC are disappointed that the Statement did not go further and include measures to trigger reasonable fire safety upgrades over time as buildings are refurbished, as is the case in similar systems overseas. Insufficient provisions still exist to require retrospective changes to fire safety measures in buildings where they are currently inadequate.”

Mr Wilsher continued “As a member of the Independent Expert Advisory Panel, I am glad to see that the Panel’s consolidated advice note has now been published, and am pleased to see the appointment of a construction expert to look at external cladding to review remediation and timescales. It is unacceptable that people are still living in homes with combustible cladding; I have said for some time this must be urgently addressed. Progress to date in this area has been unacceptably slow – a point made by the Minister in his Statement. These measures will go some way to address the ‘broken’ system highlighted by Dame Judith Hackitt’s review. I am keen to see more detail as to how they will be introduced, implemented and overseen and when this will happen. This will help to provide reassurance for all involved."

Mr Hardingham concluded, “We welcome the inclusion of measures to address Grenfell Tower Inquiry Phase 1 recommendations in respect of building safety. We expect that in Phase 2, careful consideration will be given to how and why the terrible circumstances at Grenfell Tower were able to occur. Fire and rescue services do not design, build or refurbish buildings, but when they catch fire and catastrophically fail, the responsibility to resolve the situation is laid at our doorstep.”

The Secretary of State’s full announcement can be found here and includes

  • The new Building Safety Regulator
  • The Independent Expert Panel’s consolidated advice on building safety for multi-storey, multi-occupied buildings
  • Naming of building owners where remediation has not started to remove unsafe Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) cladding from their buildings
  • Fire doors: Clear advice on what actions building owners should take
  • Remediation on buildings with ACM cladding: appointment of a construction expert to review timescales and to improve pace
  • Combustible cladding ban consultation to include proposals to lower the 18-metre height threshold to at least 11 metres
  • Proposals to lower the height threshold for sprinkler requirements in new buildings.
  • Detailed proposals on how the government will deliver the technical review of fire guidance in February
  • Fire Safety Bill: Including the government’s detailed response of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry Phase 1 recommendations
  • Clarifying the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 – ‘the Fire Safety Order’ - requiring residential building owners to fully consider and mitigate the risks of any external wall systems and front doors to individual flats.

A copy of NFCC’s full response to the Government’s November 2019 sprinkler consultation is available here:

NFCC Sprinkler Consultation Response 


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