Two years on from the fire at Grenfell Tower, this Committee has not forgotten the victims, the dignity of the survivors, nor the clear message that fundamental change is urgently needed in the social housing sector and construction industry. Whilst we still await the report of the Public Inquiry, it is already clear that 72 people died at Grenfell Tower at least in part because of serious failures in this country’s building regulations and fire safety regime.
Over the last two years, this Committee has undertaken a substantial amount of work scrutinising the Government’s efforts to reform the building regulations and remediate buildings with dangerous cladding. This report is a continuation of that work.
Here, we provide our response to the proposals set out in the Government’s June 2019 consultation into reform of the building safety regulatory system. We also outline our views on the Government’s wider work around building safety, including the progress of remediation of buildings known to have combustible cladding and the ongoing support for survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire. Our main conclusions are as follows:
It has been over two years since the fire at Grenfell Tower, and more than a year since the publication of the Final Report of the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, and yet the Government has only just published a consultation into its proposals for reform of the building safety regulatory system. The Government must pick up the pace of reform, before it is too late.
It is taking far too long to remove and replace potentially dangerous cladding from high-rise and high-risk buildings. Government policies and funding mechanisms should work to meet this deadline, while sanctions should follow for building owners who fail to make their buildings safe within a reasonable timeframe.
It is welcome that the Government has finally provided funding to meet the costs of replacing unsafe ACM cladding from privately owned high-rise residential buildings, as we called for in July 2018. We fear, however, that £200 million will not be sufficient to fully remediate all affected buildings.
The Government is right to argue that leaseholders should not be forced to pay for the remediation of their buildings, but is wrong to only provide support to residents with a specific type of cladding. If a cladding system fails a fire safety test, the Government should fully fund its removal and replacement from any high-rise or high-risk building.
There is an unfortunate feeling of deja vu around the Government’s approach to non-ACM cladding and a sense that they will inevitably end up paying for it after a short period of prevaricating. In the meantime, tens of thousands of affected residents continue to live in potentially dangerous buildings, or have been sent large bills for remedial works.
We acknowledge that the Government intends, over time, to bring more buildings within the scope of the new regime. However, the scope of the new regulatory system should not be determined by height alone. Instead, the new regime should apply to all buildings where there are vulnerable people, while other determinants of risk should also be taken into consideration.
One of the most important lessons from the Grenfell Tower fire was that residents must be listened to, their concerns need to be taken seriously, and mechanisms should be in place so residents can escalate their concerns if they do not feel these are being adequately addressed. Residents’ voice goes beyond fire safety and must form a central part of the Government’s social housing reforms, but we are concerned there has been a lack of progress in this area, specifically the delay in the Government responding to the consultation into the Social Housing Green Paper.
Two years on, many survivors are experiencing significant problems with the quality of their permanent accommodation. Further, it is apparent that the community are not receiving the standard of health checks that they thought they had been promised.
Published: 18 July 2019