The government's consultations on post-Grenfell reforms to high-rise safety: a guide for residents
Updated: Jul 25, 2019
With the support of my University's impact fund, I am working with Phil Murphy (Manchester Sustainable Communities) and other partners, to help residents of all tenures in England feed their views into proposed reforms of the current failed system for managing high-rise building safety following the Grenfell Tower disaster of 14 June 2017 that killed 72 people.
The UK government has two important consultations running until 11.45pm on 31 July 2019:
its proposals for a “radically new building and fire safety system which puts resident’s safety at its heart”: read our 10-page summary of these proposed reforms to high-rise residential buildings in England.
a call for evidence about the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 – the Fire Safety Order – which regulates fire safety in non-domestic premises, including the common parts of residential buildings.
In summary, the new proposed regulatory system will:
cover all existing and new multi-occupied residential buildings of 18 metres (approx. 6 storeys) or more in height;
set up a new Building Safety Regulator to oversee and enforce the new safety regime;
create named dutyholders with clear legal responsibilities for fire and structural safety at each stage of the building’s life-cycle (planning, design, construction, occupation);
require every building by law to have an accountable person (building owner / landlord) legally responsible for safety and a building safety manager that residents will liaise with;
create a new building registration system in which occupation can only commence once key conditions have been met - including a Resident Engagement Strategy and a Golden Thread of building information - and a building safety certificate has been issued;
enable residents with safety concerns that have not been addressed by the building owner / landlord to go direct to the Regulator with the possible removal of the building safety certificate as a penalty; and
implement tougher civil penalties and criminal sanctions for non-compliance.
However, despite wanting to put residents at the heart of the proposed new system, the government is not doing a very good job of consulting them about it. To address this, Phil Murphy and I recently ran two events with residents' groups in London where we presented the proposals in detail and our views on the current failings of the Fire Safety Order - download the presentation.
on Friday 19 July 2019 we were hosted by the London Tenants Federation at the Ampthill estate in Camden where we were joined by Tower Blocks UK and mySociety who tested their current prototypes for their new 'fix my block' online reporting tool to help tower block residents track and report safety and maintenance issues in their buildings.
Over 60 residents attended these events, representing various tenants and residents associations, Tenant Management Organisations, Coops and resident action groups. We will be writing up a report of these events asap but here is a brief summary of what residents told us:
The proposed new system has weaknesses but looks better than what we have currently got. Residents want to know that their buildings of residence, work and leisure are safe and a new system set up explicitly to ensure this is welcome.
The setting up of a new Regulator with teeth is also very welcome especially if residents can go direct when their concerns are ignored or downplayed by the landlord or when a threat to injury or life is present. Residents liked the proposals for extending the time limits for prosecution and enforcement action 1 and 2 years after building work is completed to 6 and 10 years.
There was also much support for the Golden Thread of information and residents having legal rights of access to key parts of that information.
However, residents were unanimous in their opposition to the proposed 18 metre threshold and instead argued that this new system should cover all residential buildings of any height. Fire risk is also about the type of building, how it has been maintained, the nature of the occupants and uses, and fire-fighting capacity and access – this cannot be determined by an 18m cut-off. Residents living in 4-storey blocks were alarmed that they would be excluded from this new system, yet they have cladding, compartmentation, and other fire safety concerns. There was a strong view expressed that a new system of regulatory enforcement for fire and structural safety was needed for all buildings, not just residential.
Residents also raised concerns about:
how independent the Regulator would be from the building industry?
who would adjudicate when residents disagreed with the Regulator and appealed its decisions?
the prospect of landlords, contractors and others abusing the proposed exemptions to information sharing to deny them information
the proposal to create a new requirement on residents to cooperate with the accountable person on safety matters when such duties already exist in tenancy agreements and legislation.
How to respond to the consultation
To help residents to respond to the consultation in such a short timeframe, we have produced a model response for individuals and a model response for residents groups for download. This model response is best read in conjunction with our 10-page summary of the government proposals.
You can add your own experiences, opinions and evidence where relevant; you can also adapt it to your own style and cut out the bits you do not agree with.
We would advise you to add your name, an email address, and indicate whether you are responding on behalf of organisation or just yourself. If the former, add your position and organisation name to your response. You could also indicate whether you are a council, housing association or private tenant or leaseholder, and whether you live in a high-rise block.
THE CONSULTATION DEADLINE is 11.45pm on Wednesday 31st July 2019
To respond, you can either:
(a) Complete the Government’s online survey (you do not have to answer all the questions) https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/BuildingSafetyConsultation
(b) Make a written response (which we would suggest, particularly as we are encouraging people to use our ‘model’ response with any additional comments that you choose) and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org or post to Building Safety Bill Team, Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government, 4th Floor, Fry Building, 2 Marsham Street, London SW1P 4DF
NB if emailing put Response to Building Safety consultation in the subject heading.