Post-Grenfell: Building a safer future for the UK

On Wednesday 14th June 2017, a tragic fire broke out at Grenfell Tower, a 24-storey residential block in West London. The disaster led to the deaths of 72 people with an additional 70 injured, making it the worst UK residential fire since the second world war.

In the aftermath of the fire, an investigation was carried out by the Metropolitan police and a public inquiry, which began in December 2017, is still ongoing to determine what went wrong on the night and how things could be improved in similar residential buildings in the UK.

Aside from the inquiry, the government also demanded that an independent review of the building regulations and fire safety was to be carried out that focused on regulations surrounding design, construction, and management. This review was led by Dame Judith Hackitt with the final report completed on 16th May 2018, which can be accessed here.

In summary, Dame Hackitt identified that the regulatory system covering high-rise and complex buildings was “not fit for purpose” and identified other examples where “deep flaws” were found in the system. Her attempt to provide a radical overhaul to future-proof the system refers to the current Construction (Design and Management) Regulations and requests a similar approach to ensure the safety and quality of complex buildings.

The Hackitt review recommends that a new regulatory framework should be formed to satisfy the following:

  • The key parameters of a new regulatory framework
  • Improving the focus on building safety during the design, construction and refurbishment phases
  • Improving the focus on building safety during the occupation phase
  • Giving residents a voice in the system
  • Setting out demanding expectations around improved levels of competence
  • Creating a more effective balance between government ownership of building standards and industry ownership of technical guidance
  • Creating a more robust and transparent construction products regime
  • Creating a golden thread of information about each HRRB
  • Tackling poor procurement practices
  • Ensuring continuous improvement and best practice learning through membership of an international body

In response to the independent review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, the UK government created the Building Safety Bill. This is in draft form at time of writing and is expected to be implemented in 2021. For now, some of the key proposals expected are:

  • The Introduction of The Building Safety Regulator; responsibilities to include introducing a better safety system and imposing sanctions and regulations to ensure this happens.
  • A dutyholder system will come into force in every building meaning that whoever creates a building safety risk is responsible for the managing of the risks.
  • Building safety managers will be appointed to every high rise building in the country. They will provide support on the day-to-day management of the building ensuring safety legislation is followed.
  • The Building Safety Regulator will be given new powers to makes sure people and businesses follow the guidance and with increased sanctions in place they will be able to issue compliance notices making those responsible to make good defects by a set date otherwise a criminal charge, resulting in an unlimited fine or two years in prison.
  • Costs to leaseholders will be managed and will result in leaseholders paying a manageable amount to cover a building safety charge.
  • New committees are to be created to ensure emerging issues are dealt with to ensure building safety is reviewed and improved. Residents will also get a voice (some Grenfell residents reported that they have aired issues previously regarding the safety of the building but were ignored).

With new reform and large-scale amendments to the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, it is essential that public sector bodies are aware of their future responsibilities to tenants and the public. If you would like to discuss how Bloom can help you prepare for the upcoming regulations and procure the right specialists for your organisation, contact us today.