Providers urged to get ahead of proposed Fire Safety Bill

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Social housing providers are urged to get ahead of the new Fire Safety Bill before the Home Office starts consultation in the Spring.

Announced by Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick in the Commons, the Bill is intended to “put beyond doubt” that building owners or managers of multi-occupied residential buildings of any height are required to “consider fully and mitigate” the fire safety risks of any external wall systems and front doors to individual flats.

Subsequent to Jenrick’s announcement, the Government released its formal response to Phase 1 report from the public inquiry into the Grenfell disaster.

The response details how the Bill will work in clarifying the scope of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

The safety obligations imposed on building owners or managers are strengthened by an affirmation of the ability fire and rescue services must enforce locally against building owners who have not remediated unsafe ACM cladding.

And the Bill itself is said to create a “firm foundation” to enable the Government to lay regulations needed to deliver the legislative recommendations in the Phase 1 report.

These recommendations include building owners or managers sharing information with fire and rescue services on external wall systems and undertaking regular inspections of flat entrance doors.

With the Home Office planning to consult on these proposals in the Spring, Government says it is “advisable” that those responsible under the Fire Safety Order for multi-occupied residential buildings assess the risk of external wall structures if they have not done so – and take the necessary measures as a result of that assessment.

MCHLG and the Home Office are said to be ready to “work closely” with building owners, managers and Fire and Rescue Services to ensure safety improvements.

The response references MHCLG as continuing to put in place further measures to support enforcement action and commissioning research to support further understanding of the fire performance of non-ACM external wall systems – with a report on the findings “due shortly”.

Making specific reference to the social sector, the response maintains residential buildings with unsafe ACM have now either had that material removed or had such work scheduled, with interim safety measures in place.

As reported by 24housing, latest cladding removal stats show some 7,000 homes in the social residential sector are still to be remediated – with Government said to be struggling to get ahead of stripping out.

Those stats say 91 social-sector residential buildings were still to have high-risk ACM cladding removed as of 31st Dec, with 159 high-rise blocks identified with ACM cladding unlikely to meet building regulations.

Of these, 68 buildings – 43% of all identified social-sector residential buildings – have completed remediation, including receiving sign-off from building control where necessary.

That’s up two on the number for November and includes two blocks that have vacated residents and removed cladding prior to demolition.

The remediated social-sector residential buildings account for approximately 4,500 homes.

The total number of starts in social residential sector has decreased by two, as buildings in this category last month (December) have now completed remediation.

There are approximately 7,000 dwellings in the social residential sector that are yet to be remediated.

Another 33 are known to have had their ACM cladding removed, though remediation is not yet complete.

Funding for the remediation of 144 of these 159 buildings is provided from the government’s social sector ACM cladding remediation fund, and one more is expected to apply.

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References: 24Housing