The independent review of building regulations and fire safety set up by the government in the wake the Grenfell Tower disaster has called for a “radical rethink” of the system – but has rejected calls to ban flammable cladding
Seventy-one people were killed when fire spread through Grenfell Tower in June last year. Cladding on hundreds of buildings subsequently failed fire safety tests.
In her final report, Dame Judith Hackitt said existing building regulations have created a “race to the bottom”.
“The primary motivation is to do things as quickly and cheaply as possible, rather than to deliver quality homes which are safe for people to live in,” she added.
Dame Judith also criticised a lack of clarity about roles and responsibilities, exacerbated by fragmentation within the industry, and inadequate regulatory oversight.
“Where enforcement is necessary, it is often not pursued. Where it is pursued, the penalties are so small as to be an ineffective deterrent,” she said.
However, Dame Judith does not propose a ban on cladding, saying the debate focused on whether cladding should be used only illustrates the “siloed thinking that is part of the problem we must address”.
“This is most definitely not just a question of the specification of cladding systems, but of an industry that has not reflected and learned for itself, nor looked to other sectors,” she said.
Instead, there needs to a rethink of the whole system to address “ambiguous and unclear” regulations, misunderstood and misinterpreted guidance and a system for testing products that is “disjointed, confusing, unhelpful and lacking any sort of transparency”.
Responding to the report, Suzannah Nicol MBE, chief executive of Build UK, said: “It is not surprising to see that Dame Judith Hackitt is proposing radical change in how high-rise residential buildings are designed, constructed and maintained.
“Containing a substantial number of recommendations, including new legislation, it is now up to the industry to adopt a much more rigorous approach to ensuring that designs, materials, systems and buildings are fit-for-purpose and that everyone is clear who is accountable at every stage of the process.”
However, Tottenham MP David Lammy called the review “a betrayal and a whitewash”.
“It is unthinkable and unacceptable that so many people can die in a disaster like Grenfell and one year on, flammable cladding has not been banned,” he wrote on Twitter.
“The Grenfell families and the public needed a review that was fearless in standing up to the industry on behalf of all those who lost their lives.
“I simply fail to see how it is deemed appropriate for any combustible material to be used on any tower block in this country and I find it unfathomable that this review has not recommended an outright ban on combustible material.”
Click here to access the full review.