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Consultation on combustibles ban in high-rise blocks

Welsh Government has launched a consultation on banning the use of combustible materials on the external walls of high-rise housing blocks.

The consultation will run for eight weeks from today (19 July) until 13 September and follows consultation on a ban in England.

Housing and Regeneration Minister Rebecca Evans said:

‘Since the tragic events at Grenfell Tower there has been much debate about external wall cladding systems and concerns expressed that combustible cladding is not explicitly banned by law

‘I have been clear that we will make radical and far-reaching reforms to the regulatory system following Dame Judith Hackitt’s review. While we do not want to see regulation out of proportion to risk, we cannot accept a system which compromises the safety of the people of Wales. We have responded quickly to public concern with this consultation and I hope to hear the views of a wide range of individuals and organisations.’

The consultation covers new buildings, and those undergoing refurbishment and asks questions about:

  • The type of buildings covered by a ban
  • How the ban should be applied to refurbishment
  • Which elements of walls should be captured
  • How materials are classified.

The consultation paper says Welsh ministers have recognised concerns that the current BS8114 test for external wall systems ‘does not offer as straightforward a way of meeting the requirements of the regulations as would a ban on the use of combustible materials’ and are minded to include a specific ban in legislation.

Any ban would apply to buildings above 18m and apply throughout the entire height of the wall and cover student accommodation and care homes as well as housing.

Products classified under the European system as Class A2 would count as non-combustible.

The consultation says the entire external wall should be included in the ban, not just cladding, given cases where materials used in the construction of balconies and window spandrels have been implicated in external fire spread.

However, it also calls for views on whether there should be exemptions, for example where there is no practical alternative to using materials that are not Class A1 or A2.

Any ban would apply to existing buildings that undergo work that falls within scope of the building regulations but not where no work is being carried out.

The English government is already consulting on a similar ban on combustibles but it faces pressure from the all-party Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee to go further.

In a report published this week, the committee said the ban did not go far enough and called for it to apply to existing buildings, as well as sprinklers in all high-rises and action to tackle conflicts of interest in the building industry.

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