DAME JUDITH Hackitt added that there ‘can no longer be any excuse for holding back or doubting that things are going to change, ahead of the bill being made law.

BAFE reported on the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE’s) building safety bulletin, in which Dame Judith shared her comprehensive views on the Building Safety Bill. In this, she stated: ‘More than three years ago, in July 2017 I started my independent review of building safety and fire regulations in the wake of the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower.

‘In those first few weeks I interviewed many people and almost without exception they told me that the current regulatory system needed radical change. The people I talked to also expressed doubts about whether the system would actually change as a result of my review. Three and a half years on and we now know that radical change is on its way and the doubts expressed were unfounded.

‘Given the scale of the tragedy at Grenfell which had led to my review the momentum for change was greater than it had ever been before. After my final report was published in May 2018, my involvement continued when I was asked to chair the Industry Safety Steering Group. We brought together very senior people from a range of industry backgrounds to challenge the industry to accept the need for culture change and to adopt new practices ahead of legislation mandating them to do so.’

She continued: ‘Over the last two years or so we’ve heard some really encouraging stories of the progress people are making. These are from the people who recognise the need to change and want to do the right thing now, not wait for legislation to make them do it. But of course, we’ve also heard from others who haven’t changed yet and who offer a variety of explanations – “not my problem to fix”, “tell me what to do”.

‘The thing that makes the difference between those that are getting on with making change and those who are holding back is not about resources or competence or clarity – it’s all about leadership. So, we need many more companies and organisations to step up and show leadership. I am delighted that the Building Safety Bill is about to make its passage through Parliament and that the new Building Safety Regulator has been announced and will be part of HSE.

‘There can no longer be any excuse for holding back or doubting that things are going to change. There is still a huge amount to do to achieve this once in a generation change – by everyone involved and through the transition board we will maintain the pressure to deliver the new regulatory regime and the new regulator as soon as is possible. We meet monthly and will continue until the new regime is up and running.

‘In the coming months I want us to focus on the positive outcomes that this new regime will deliver – safer homes for residents is of course front and centre but this is also a chance for the whole built environment sector to raise its game.’

Stephen Adams, BAFE chief executive, commented: ‘BAFE fully support Dame Judith’s comments, stressing the interest in UKAS accredited third party certification has increased over the last three years with the addition of more tender specifications stipulating this requirement. BAFE continue to monitor the portfolio of schemes available to ensure they remain the highest levels of determining quality evidence of competency for life safety systems and provisions.’

Late last month, Dame Judith’s comments at Savills’ annual housing seminar included that she predicted the government would amend the bill ‘in order to help homeowners trapped in unsafe buildings’, and that there was a ‘need to put greater detail’ into the bill before it is brought before parliament in 2021.

She stated at the time that issues faced by owners were the ‘biggest risk to implementing this change’ to building safety, and said she understood that the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) was ‘now working to make changes to the bill to solve the issue’. She added that around 13,000 existing buildings were ‘likely to be bound’ by the new regime.

She commented: ‘The need to find a resolution to that is quite clearly recognised within [MHCLG] and they know it needs to be addressed as part of putting greater detail into the Building Safety Bill before it goes back in to parliament. It was identified throughout the pre-legislative scrutiny process as one of the biggest issues, so there’s a lot of work going on, and I think we will see some further clarity and some resolution to that, before the bill is introduced into parliament. That’s my hope.’

In turn, she added that the bill was on course to be laid before parliament in ‘early 2021’, but did not set out changes she expected MHCLG to make, and noted that the plan was for the new regime to be formally in place by 2023, but warned that developers and the wider construction industry should ‘start implementing new practices now’.

She accused mortgage lenders and insurers of ‘overreacting’ by requiring leaseholders in multiple blocks to obtain external wall fire review (EWS1) forms - designed to demonstrate fire safety – ‘even when there was no fire risk’, stating: ‘Well-intentioned moves to help the process for external wall systems […] have resulted in over-use and indiscriminate use of EWS1 forms and, in some of the very worst of these cases, leasehold flats being considered unsellable and unmortgageable.

‘We need to apply proportion and common sense to what we do now and going forward, and refrain from these blanket approaches which confuse hazard and risk.’

Dame Judith also said at the seminar that the new building safety regulator will assist those in the industry ‘who are trying to do their best to stick by the rules’, but will be ‘much tougher on those who seek to game the system, or otherwise duck out of their legal and moral responsibilities’. It was ‘on course’ to appoint a chief inspector of building safety early next year.

Last month, the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee (HCLGC) called attention to clauses in the draft bill that might allow leaseholders to be charged for fire safety works, an ‘abdication of responsibility’. The committee called on the government to ‘recommit to the principle’ that leaseholders should not pay towards the remediation of their buildings.

Two Conservative MPs wrote to all other government MPs who are not ministers to ‘take a stand’ and ‘press’ the government to take action to protect leaseholders from fire safety costs, with Stephen McPartland and Royston Smith stating that ‘the government has done its best, but it has been over three years and they are not tackling all the issues’.

However, comments made by Housing Minister Christopher Pincher in parliament saw him state that the government would not write an ‘open cheque’, and that it was up to developers and building owners to ‘step up’ and take responsibility. Further backing for the HCLGC recommendations came from the National Fire Chiefs Council and the Greater Manchester High Rise Task Force.