Kathryn Gilbertson

+44 (0)1733 887621 kgilbertson@greenwoodsgrm.co.uk

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Lorna Carter

+44 (0)1223 785299 lecarter@greenwoodsgrm.co.uk

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Key features of the Building Safety Bill & the Fire Safety Consultation

Construction / 22 July 2020

Earlier this year, we updated on Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick MP’s, announcement of ambitious steps to further reform the building safety system with the ‘biggest changes in a generation’ to ensure residents are safe in their homes. See update here

Government has now also published the Building Safety Bill (the “Bill”) including proposed new laws relating to building safety regulations. We discuss key features of the new Bill below.

The Bill represents the most significant and fundamental changes to building safety legislation in decades. The Bill, being 334 pages long, has been designed to prevent a disaster like the 2017 Grenfell fire, from ever happening again. The new laws would currently apply to all buildings higher than 18m or six storeys. Key features of the Bill include:

  • the introduction of a new era of accountability, making it clear where responsibility for managing safety risk lies from the design and construction phase right through to occupation;
  • tougher sanctions for those that fail to meet their obligations; and
  • the installation of a powerful new Building Safety Regulator (“Regulator”) embedded within the Health and Safety Executive. The Regulator will have three main functions: (i) to oversee the safety and standard of all buildings; (ii) to assure the safety of higher-risk buildings and (iii) to improve the competence of people responsible for managing and overseeing building work.


Fire Safety Consultation

Linked to the prioritisation of building and residents’ safety, the Government has also published a consultation setting out proposals to implement the recommendation of the first phase of the Grenfell tower inquiry.

This consultation will look at improving safety across all regulated buildings in England and Wales irrespective of the building’s height. Responses can be sent online or by email to the Government’s Fire Safety Unit until 12 October 2020.


Commentary

Robert Jenrick MP is “calling on the industry to actively prepare for these changes now” and has said “it is vital the sector moves in step with us, to provide confidence and reassurance to residents that their safety is firmly at the heart of everything we do.”

Commentary in response to the publication of the Bill suggests it is mostly welcomed by construction industry figures, with a few caveats. Whilst many including Jane Duncan, Chair, RIBA Fire Safety Group and Peter Caplehorn, Chief Executive, Construction Products Association recognise this as a significant moment with some positive changes, including the new Regulator, there are concerns that the new system does not apply to other high-risk non-residential buildings at any height (i.e. those less than 18m or six storeys high).

The Bill will now come under a period of pre-legislative scrutiny over the summer, which may lead to some amendments and is anticipated to be brought before parliament in the autumn. We will keep you updated.

If you need to know more about the Building Safety Bill, including who applies to, the role of the Regulator, Building Control, higher-risk buildings, duties relating to building safety, potential sanctions and enforcement, please do get in touch.

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