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Consultation on cladding ban after Hackitt review

Dame Judith Hackitt has called for radical reform of the regulatory system in her independent review of the building regulations and fire safety but stopped short of calling for an outright ban on combustible cladding.

However, action could still follow after UK housing and communities secretary James Brokenshire said in a statement to parliament that he would launch a consultation ‘on banning the use of combustible materials in cladding systems on high-rise residential buildings’.

Prime minister Theresa May said on Wednesday that the government would fund the removal and replacement of unsafe cladding by councils and housing associations with £400 million.

Dame Judith, the former chair of the Health and Safety Executive, argued instead for ‘a less prescriptive, outcomes-based approach to the regulatory framework to be overseen by a new regulator that can drive the right behaviours’.

She also called for:

  • clearer roles and responsibilities throughout the design and construction process and during occupation, to ensure real accountability for building safety
  • residents to be consulted and involved in decisions affecting the safety of their home and listened to if they have concerns
  • a more rigorous and transparent product testing regime and a more responsible marketing regime
  • the industry to lead on strengthening competence of all those involved in building work and to establish an oversight body.

She said:

‘This is a systemic problem. The current system is far too complex, it lacks clarity as to who is responsible for what, and there is inadequate regulatory oversight and enforcement. Simply adding more prescription or making amendments to the current system, such as restricting or prohibiting certain practices, will not address the root causes.

‘The recommendations in this report will lead to a clearer, simpler but more robust approach to the building and on going management of high rise residential buildings.’

Housing organisations welcomed some aspects of the report but criticised the lack of a ban on unsafe cladding. They also called for swift action by the UK government.

Stuart Ropke, chief executive of Community Housing Cymru, said:

‘Tenant safety is paramount and the publication of today’s Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety provides a solid framework for housing associations and Welsh Government to continue working together to improve safety for people living in high rise buildings in Wales. We agree it’s vital the construction industry, building owners and managers are held accountable for ensuring that buildings are safe.

‘We support the review’s focus on improving the overall systems for ensuring safety in high rise buildings in the long term. However, as a priority we believe where cladding, insulation or practices are shown to be unsafe on buildings above 18m their further use should be prohibited.’

Chartered Institute of Housing chief executive Terrie Alafat said:

‘The Hackitt Review rightly recommends a wholesale overhaul of the building regulations and fire safety system covering high-rise buildings. It is absolutely vital that we increase accountability for everyone involved in building and managing homes and make sure that residents have a stronger voice. It is now almost a year since the horrendous events at Grenfell Tower when 71 people lost their lives – we urge the government to consider the review’s recommendations carefully and act on them swiftly.

‘Everyone who works in housing must reflect on the recommendations and we will be doing everything we can to make sure that our members understand the changes coming their way so they can put them into practice quickly and effectively.’

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said:

‘Unfortunately the Hackitt Review has ducked a huge challenge by failing to ban combustible cladding outright.

‘We are deeply concerned that of the 189 social housing blocks with Grenfell-style cladding less than 4 per cent have had their cladding entirely replaced, leaving thousands of people anxious, uncertain and unable to sleep soundly at night.

‘While the government has shown leadership this week in announcing it will pay to replace unsafe cladding, it must acknowledge this is not just a money issue – it’s also a safety issue. They must now go further by ensuring no high rises can be built or refitted with unsafe cladding ever again.’

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