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White paper sets out building safety plans

Housing Minister Julie James has set out extensive reforms she said would give Wales the most comprehensive building safety regime in the UK and provide residents with a stronger voice.

Proposals in the Building Safety White Paper cover all multi-occupied residential buildings, from a house converted into two flats to a high-rise apartment block.

The White Paper sets out major reforms to the way we design, build, manage and live in properties so that safety is observed at all stage of a building’s lifecycle, whilst proposing clear lines of accountability for building owners and managers as well as a stronger regulatory system.

It also includes:

  • Clear lines of accountability, creating dutyholders with the appropriate knowledge and expertise, who will be legally responsible for safety and reducing fire risk throughout the lifecycle of the building
  • An enhanced programme of checks during construction to support evidence of compliance
  • The creation of two risk categories, with a ‘Golden Thread’ of up to date information about design, construction and ongoing maintenance required for all buildings of 18 metres or over
  • A duty for building to contain the capacity to contain a fire where it originates for long enough to allow it to be extinguished.
  • A wholly new means for identifying and reducing risks of fire in blocks of flats. This will be easier for landlords and others to understand and apply, and more effective in reducing risks to residents
  • A process for residents to raise building safety concerns
  • A single process for escalating concerns to the regulator.

Under the two risk categories, Category 1 covers high-rise residential buildings over 18m and Category 2 covers lower-rise buildings containing two or more dwellings. There are estimated to be 148 high-rises containing 10,000 flats in Category 1 and up to 40,000 buildings with 130,000 homes in Category 2.

Welsh Government has already introduced measures including a ban on combustible materials in cladding systems in all new residential buildings (flats, student accommodation and care homes) and hospitals over 18m in height.

The white paper is aimed at making residential buildings safer but does not address the plight of leaseholders facing big bills for repair work. More action on this is expected later.

Julie James said:

‘In the wake of the tragedy at Grenfell Tower, the Welsh Government has already taken action to make buildings safer for residents.

‘It’s always been clear, however, that far more fundamental changes were needed to improve building safety in the round.

‘That’s why we are proposing improvements to every stage of the life-cycle of multi-occupied buildings, from design, through construction and into occupation, so new buildings are safe for each and every resident.

‘Most importantly, these proposals are designed to empower residents by giving them far more say in the matters that affect their homes and providing clear channels for them to speak up and alert those responsible when things go wrong. Those who own and manage our buildings must live up to their obligations to put things right.

‘These proposals, if passed into law in the next Senedd term, will create a new and much improved regime which puts the safety of residents first.’

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