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The government announces Technical Review of building regulations

In response to the Hackitt Review , the government has started mapping out its programme for implementing Dame Hackitt's recommendations.

The government is pushing towards greater regulation of fire safety precautions. The implementation strategy follows on from separate proposals to revise Approved Document B and update guidance on the assessment of fire door performance, and  the highly publicised ban on combustible cladding. 

The new proposals include a trial of a tougher oversight system by the Joint Regulators Group (comprising the HSE, Local Authority Building Control (LABC), the Fire and Rescue Services through the National Fire Chiefs’ Council (NFCC) and the Local Government Association). The new system is designed to move away from a focus on passive compliance to one where developers and owners take responsibility for ensuring resident safety.

Before any legislative reform, the government will work with industry to improve guidance for both developers and owners.

The concrete steps identified in the plan include:

  • Assessing whether scope should be extended beyond the current 10 storeys to all other buildings where a significant fire could put many lives at risk - the government aims to consult in spring 2019 on what other buildings which should be included
  • Ensuring consistent legal duties and minimising conflict between different regulatory regimes, including reform of other legislation if required
  • Addressing technical challenges to ensure there is a responsible dutyholder during the occupation phase of a building which addresses the various complex potential ownership models
  • Implementing the regulatory gateways recommended by the Review to provide stronger sanctions and enforcement powers in order to incentivise compliance
  • Consulting on how best to make sure those responsible for risks understand and address them through the use of a safety case approach
  • Encouraging dutyholders to actively engage with regulators between safety case reviews and demonstrate proactive risk management
  • Removing choice over the use of approved inspectors and permitting local authorities to contract additional support from the private sector where required
  • Making the digital solutions required to maintain the golden thread available
  • Developing a Building Regulations manual to explain the role of Approved Documents
  • Developing a clear and quick escalation route for residents to raise safety concerns (this is currently the subject of a call for evidence)
  • Forming an independent Fire Standards Board to maintain and oversee quality and standards
  • Establishing an Industry Safety Steering Group to the construction industry to deal with cultural change and obstructions to progress and establishing a Joint Regulators Group
  • Launching a call for evidence in relation to a technical review of Approved Document B

The consultation in spring 2019 will include the scope of the new regime dutyholder responsibilities, proactively providing residents with safety critical information, enforcement, sanctions, and the "gateways" for the new approval process.

Proposals for the safety case regime include making fire authorities  consultees in the planning process for high risk residential buildings even before the new framework is established, as well as  requiring persistent digital record keeping throughout the occupation of relevant buildings. The government also wants to clarify and strengthen existing regimes for all categories of buildings.

Approved Documents L, F and M will be reviewed with reviews of various technical requirements under other parts early in 2019.

The government proposes to work with industry including consulting on the current role and function of BRAC, and working with the Construction Products Association, test houses and industry groups on product performance, including fire protection. New standards will be created in collaboration with industry for manufacturing, installation and inspection of products. 

The government is also considering bringing forward legislation on construction products including standards and performance. 

Another important element is encouraging UK notified bodies and product suppliers to produce more accessible performance summaries and take steps to encourage relevant buildings to use third party certification of fire safety products.

The approach set out above is largely voluntary and depends on industry engagement in the process. Failure to do so is likely to lead to mandatory regulatory interventions. Reviews of industry's proposals are planned over the next five months and could lead to further legislation if necessary.

If you are affected by the above, you could consider responding to the various consultations, calls for evidence or engaging with the relevant industry bodies in order to ensure that your concerns and contributions are heard.

This publication is intended for general guidance and represents our understanding of the relevant law and practice as at February 2019. Specific advice should be sought for specific cases. For more information see our terms & conditions.

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