The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) announced proposals that ‘would ensure more sprinklers in new high-rise blocks of flats’.
In an announcement, MHCLG – via Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick and building safety minister lord Younger – stated that the proposals would see sprinklers ‘installed in new high-rise blocks of flats’, and formed an ‘important step forward in the government’s commitment to ensuring residents are safe in their homes’.
The main element of the consultation – running until 28 November - is to reduce the building height ‘for when sprinklers are required’ from 30m and above to 18m ‘or other relevant thresholds’, while a new protection board is being set up ‘immediately’ between the Home Office and National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) to ‘provide further reassurance to residents of high-risk residential blocks that any risks are identified and acted upon’.
About £10m of funding a year has been made available to support this board, which will provide ‘expert, tailored’ building checks and inspections ‘if necessary’ on all high risk residential buildings in England by 2021. It will operate until a new building safety regulator is established, and until legislation on a new building safety regime is introduced.
The board will ‘ensure building owners are acting on the latest safety advice’, keep residents updated and that interim measures ‘are in place’ for all buildings clad with combustible aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding. Its work will be informed by data collection work by local authorities to identify cladding types, and funded by another government contribution of £4m.
In turn, from 12 September the application process for the £200m fund for removing ACM from privately owned buildings will be opened ‘to accelerate the pace’ of removal and replacement. The consultation on the sprinklers and other measures will last 12 weeks, and forms ‘part of the first proposed changes to building regulations in England covering fire safety within and around buildings’, including introducing emergency evacuation alert systems for use by fire and rescue services.
Mr Jenrick stated: ‘Residents’ safety is our utmost priority and we are making vital improvements to ensure buildings are safe. I have listened to concerns on sprinklers from residents and building owners and our proposals are an important step forward in shaping the future building safety standards.
‘The new Protection Board will make sure building owners don’t flout the rules, as well as ensuring fire safety risks in other buildings are being addressed. Government funds are available for private building owners to remove and replace unsafe ACM cladding, and let me be clear, inaction will have consequences and I will name and shame those who do not act during the course of the autumn. There is no excuse for further delay – and for building owners to fail to take action now would be frankly disgraceful.’
Lord Younger added: ‘I’m determined to ensure buildings across the country are safe for residents and the opening of our private sector fund and commitment to new building safety legislation is an important step in driving that forward. This government is acting and I’m calling on all building owners and developers to step up and make any changes needed to ensure their buildings are safe.’
The government also published responses from its call for evidence on the technical review of Approved Document B of the Building Regulations (ADB). In response, the NFCC welcomed the announcement, with chair Roy Wilsher stating: ‘NFCC has lobbied for the more widespread use of sprinkler systems, most recently in our response to the government consultation on [ADB] in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire.
‘We are delighted that government have made this commitment to improving fire safety. This announcement and consultation will go some way to bringing legislation in England closer to that which already exists in Scotland and Wales. NFCC has played a vital role in providing advice to government and will continue to do so with the announcement of the creation of the Protection Board which I will Chair.
‘MHCLG, sdenior fire leaders, the Home Office and Local Government Association will meet this month for the first Protection Board meeting. There has been a commitment from MHCLG of £10m investment in fire protection to support the work of the Board, it is hoped that this will support Fire and Rescue Services as they aim to improve building safety.
‘Lastly NFCC is pleased to see that at last the government is opening the application process for the £200m fund to accelerate the pace of the removal and replacement of unsafe ACM from privately-owned buildings. The removal of non-compliant ACM cladding systems is long overdue and we hope to see remediation completed soon.’