The Queen’s Speech

Queen's speech

The Queen’s speech at the opening of Parliament this week highlighted some of the recommendations put forward in Dame Judith Hackitt’s report on building safety standards legislation.

 

We’ve picked apart the speech to bring you the most important bits.

 

What are the key statements?

  • Dame Judith Hackitt’s independent review found that that the current regulatory system is not fit for purpose in relation to high-rise and complex buildings. All 53 of Dame Judith’s recommendations will be taken forward.
  • In the recent Government consultation, it was estimated that the new regime will apply to over 11,000 high rise buildings, rising to almost 15,000 buildings within 10 years. This estimate will be refined as the detail of the measures is finalised and a full impact assessment is completed.
  • Since the fire at Grenfell, a wide range of improvements have been taken forward that have not required legislation, including:

○ Identifying over 400 high rise buildings with unsafe Aluminium Composite Material cladding, like the type used on Grenfell Tower, and working with local authorities and fire and rescue authorities to ensure that appropriate interim safety measures are in place.

○ Making £600 million funding available for the replacement of unsafe ACM cladding on high-rise residential homes in the social and private sectors. The private sector remediation fund was launched on 12 September 2019.

 

○ Providing further funding for tailored building checks and inspections on all high-risk residential buildings in England by 2021, backed by £10 million per year of new funding.

○ Laying regulations and guidance to ban the use of combustible materials during building work on the external walls of new buildings over 18 metres containing flats, as well as new hospitals, residential care premises, dormitories in boarding schools and student accommodation over 18 metres.

○ Making expert advice available to building owners on a range of other safety risks, and issuing amended guidance to restrict the use of assessments in lieu of tests (also known as desktop studies).

○ Consulting on a clarified version of the Building Regulations’ fire safety guidance (Approved Document B) and issuing a call for evidence as the first step in a full technical review of the guidance.

 

○ Consulting on changes to the Building Regulations guidance on fire safety, primarily lowering the height threshold for sprinklers.

 

○ Inviting views on how residents are supported to meet their safety responsibilities, and launching the Social Sector (Building Safety) Engagement Best Practice Group, to develop better ways to engage residents in keeping their buildings safe.

○ Commissioning research to support further understanding of the fire performance of non-ACM external wall systems.

 

The speech also pointed to new legislation. The purpose of this legislation is to ‘put in place new and modernised regulatory regimes for building safety and construction products, ensuring residents have a stronger voice in the system.’

 

What are the proposed benefits of the legislation?

 

  • Learning the lessons from the Grenfell Tower fire and bringing about a fundamental change in the regulatory framework for high rise residential buildings, and the industry culture to ensure accountability and responsibility.
  • Making sure that residents are safe in their homes.

What are the elements of the legislation?

 

A new safety framework for high-rise residential buildings, taking forward the recommendations from Dame Judith Hackitt’s independent review of building

safety, and in some areas going further by:

  •  Providing clearer accountability for, and stronger duties on, those responsible for the safety of high-rise buildings throughout the building’s design, construction and occupation, with clear competence requirements to ensure high standards are upheld.
  • Giving residents a stronger voice in the system, ensuring their concerns are never ignored and they fully understand how they can contribute to maintaining safety in their buildings.
  • Strengthening enforcement and sanctions to deter non-compliance with the new regime in order to hold the right people to account when mistakes are made and ensure they are not repeated.
  • Developing a new stronger and clearer framework to provide national oversight of construction products, to ensure all products meet high performance standards.
  • Developing a new system to oversee the whole built environment, with local enforcement agencies and national regulators working together to ensure that the safety of all buildings is improved.
  • We are also legislating to require that developers of new build homes must belong to a New Homes Ombudsman.

The legislation’s provisions would in the main apply to England only, however the Bill will have UK wide scope as oversight of construction products is reserved.

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