Grenfell Tower

As we mourn the loss of 72 people in the 2017 Grenfell Tower fire, the FPA considers the pace and scope of change and urges the government to put risk at the heart of transforming building fire safety in this country.

It is four years since the horrific fire at Grenfell Tower which saw 72 people die needlessly in the worst fire in England since the second world war. As we reflect on that day and think about those who perished in the fire, those who survived and the families and friends who see continual reminders of their loss, we all have a duty to play our part in implementing change.

As the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, led by Sir Martin Moore-Bick, continues to uncover the litany of wrongdoing, the mistakes and the ignorance of those who had a part in making that building and its residents vulnerable, we see a light shone on what can be done to improve fire safety in communities across the country.

The response to the Grenfell Tower fire has uncovered deep-seated fire safety problems that we did not know we had.  

We allowed homes to be developed that leave the residents not only living in unsafe buildings with a catalogue of fire safety defects, but where the cost of remediating the problems is so prohibitive it has the potential to bankrupt a generation of homeowners.

The cladding scandal – or more accurately the building fire safety scandal - is not going away. The government must do more to help those who live in buildings where they had no part in the decisions made about their construction and bought them – for many, a share in them – as part of an aspiration to join the property-owning classes.

The FPA supports the End our Cladding Scandal campaign and thanks the tireless efforts of angry leaseholders for their unbridled determination to hold the government to account. The literal light they shone on the Palace of Westminster earlier this month as part of their guerilla filming tactics has only increased legislators’ awareness of the depth of this problem.

The government has given us the Fire Safety Act, a way to deal with some of the legalistic recommendations coming from the Grenfell Inquiry. The FPA welcomes clarity on the status of fire safety in the common parts of buildings, the inclusion of external wall system risk assessment and a register for fire risk assessments.

Not passing the amendment that would free leaseholders from paying for the remediation of fire safety defects in their buildings will dog the government as it continues to deal with other areas of change required to remedy the way in which buildings are constructed in this country.

It has taken four years to get to the point where a Building Safety Bill will start its passage through Parliament. That is too long. The government will be acutely aware that it will have a difficult journey despite the good intent in much of the policy that will see Dame Judith Hackitt’s recommendations about building fire safety enshrined into law.

The FPA urges the government to reconsider its continued obsession with using height as a measurement to define its policy and legislative solutions. The Building Safety Bill should be grounded in considerations of risk and risk alone.

We applaud the Housing Select Committee and the determined work of its Chair, Clive Betts MP. It is their evidence-based, pre-legislative scrutiny that continues to hold the government to account. Their work is an important vehicle for reflecting the views of those of us in the fire sector who wish to see transformative but realistic change across the spectrum of fire safety.

As we pause to think of those who died, we thank those who seek to embed change. We must be sure that the change is right, the change is evidence-based and the costs fall to those who created the problem in the first place.