In January, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick announced ‘the biggest change in building safety for generation’, including a new regulator, changes to height limits and new consultations. The new measures would ‘go faster and further to improve building safety’, with the previously announced new building safety regulator to be sited within the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and ‘established immediately’.

In turn, ‘clarified and consolidated’ advice for building owners has been released, and Mr Jenrick stated that the ‘slow pace of improving building safety standards will not be tolerated’, and added that the new regulator will ‘give effective oversight of the design, construction and occupation’ of high risk buildings, as part of the HSE, which will ‘quickly begin to establish’ the regulator ‘in shadow form immediately’, prior to full establishment with legislation.

The regulator will ‘raise building safety and performance standards’ and oversee a ‘new, more stringent regime’ for higher risk buildings, and Dame Judith Hackitt will chair a board to ‘oversee the transition’. The HSE was chosen for its ‘strong track record of working with industry and other regulators to improve safety’, and would ‘draw on experience and the capabilities of other regulators to implement the new regime’.

On high rise residential buildings, the government noted that fires including the Bolton fire last year ‘highlighted that many building owners have still not taken sufficient measures to ensure the safety of residents in buildings at all heights’, with the expert advisory panel having ‘clarified and updated’ advice for building owners on actions to take ‘to ensure their buildings are safe’, specifically focusing on external cladding.

The ‘consolidated’ advice simplifies language and condenses previous advice into one place, and ‘vitally’ makes clear building owners ‘need to do more to address safety issues’ on residential buildings under 18m. This advice also reflects the panel’s view that aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding with an ‘unmodified polyethylene core’ should ‘not be on residential buildings of any height and should be removed’, with a call for evidence published on risks within existing buildings.

With cladding remediation, the government is appointing a construction expert to review timescales and ‘identify what can be done to improve pace in the private sector’, and it is ‘considering different options’ to support the process, including mitigating costs for individuals or provide alternative financing routes.

The government has now stated that the bill’s ‘fundamental changes’ have come about in response to the Grenfell Tower fire, which ‘exposed serious failings across the whole system of building and managing high-rise homes’. Having taken ‘immediate steps’ to make residents safer, and commissioned Dame Judith Hackitt’s review of building regulations and fire safety, it concluded that the whole system ‘needed major reform’, and residents’ safety a ‘greater priority’.

This would be ‘through the entire life cycle of a building’, with Dame Judith’s recommendations accepted and the bill created alongside the fire safety bill to ‘set out how we are bringing forward those proposals to provide the biggest improvements to building safety in nearly 40 years’. As a draft bill, it will be examined by a committee of MPs who will feed back any recommendations before it is finalised, and work with stakeholders on ‘areas that need refinement’ or consultation.

After this, the bill will be introduced and become an act should it pass through all stages, and for residents it will ensure ‘there will always be someone responsible for keeping residents safe in high rise buildings’, who will ‘have to listen and respond’ to concerns and ensure resident are heard, called the accountable person. There will also be resident and leaseholder access to ‘vital’ safety information about buildings, and new complaints handling requirements for ‘effective action’.

The new regulator will ‘oversee all this and make sure that accountable persons are carrying out their duties properly’, and ‘ensure that high rise buildings and the people who live in them are being kept safe’, with ‘new powers to raise and enforce higher standards of safety and performance across all buildings’. Resident panels will be appointed to have a voice in developing the regulator’s work.

The government will also ‘continue to engage’ with leaseholders on helping them avoid ‘unaffordable costs for historic repairs’, and will be ‘speeding up’ its work with finance and insurance sectors to protect leaseholders from these costs ‘without relying on tax payers’ money’, while building safety insurance issues will be focused on, with a new building safety charge making it ‘easy for leaseholders to see and know what they are being charged for’.

To ensure these costs are affordable, the government has ‘deliberately included powers to limit’ costs that can be re-charged to leaseholders, while ‘for the first time’ new build buyers will be able to complain to a new homes ombudsman, and developers will have to be a member of the scheme, with the ombudsman having the power to require they ‘pay compensation’.

For construction, the bill will ‘fully establish’ the regulator to ‘enforce new rules and take strong actions against those who break them’, ensuring they are ‘accountable for any mistakes’. The regulator’s three functions including overseeing safety and standards of all buildings; ‘directly’ assuring safety of higher risk buildings; and improving the competence of those ‘responsible for managing and overseeing’ works.

A ‘more stringent’ set of rules for high rises will apply when buildings are ‘designed, constructed and then later occupied’, with each stage making it ‘clear who is responsible for managing the potential risks and what is required to move to the next stage’. This ties into the “golden thread” of ‘vital information about the building’, and buildings need to be registered with the regulator as well as apply for a building assurance certificate.

The accountable person will then need to ‘conduct and maintain’ a safety case risk assessment and appoint a building safety manager ‘to oversee it day to day’, with building inspectors ‘responsible for signing buildings off as safe for people to live in’ also having to follow the rules and register with the regulator. Additionally, the government will have the power to ‘better regulate’ construction materials and products, and ‘ensure they are safe to use’.

The draft bill was published today, with the government ‘keen’ to receive the views of MPs, residents and the sector via ‘pre-legislative scrutiny’ head of it being introduced to parliament. The Guardian also noted that one part of the bill will see ministers appoint the UK’s first chief inspector of buildings, who will lead the new regulator ‘to make sure effective action is taken where concerns are raised’.

Lord Greenhalgh, Building Safety and Fire Minister, said: ‘These are the biggest changes to building safety legislation for nearly 40 years, and they will raise standards across the industry and ensure building owners have nowhere to hide if they break the rules.’