Alongside at least 50 tenants and tenants’ organisations from London, we at LTF responded to the government’s fire safety consultation in summer 2019, arguing that if there must be a height threshold for new fire safety measures then this must be dropped to 11 metres rather than 18. We highlighted that a fireman’s ladder does not extend higher than 11 metres.
The government is now consulting on an outright ban on the type of cladding used at Grenfell as well as changing the height threshold of the ban on other combustible materials to 11 metres.
We would now encourage tenants’ and residents’ groups to respond to this new consultation to ensure that the government does not retreat from this proposal and to scrutinise some of the other changes proposed, such as new exemptions.
Residents and other interested parties have until 13th April 2020 at 11.45pm to respond to the consultation, which proposes:
- Extending the ban on combustible cladding to hotels, hostels and boarding houses
- Lowering the height threshold to include “buildings with a storey at least 11 metres above ground level”
- Banning the type of cladding that was used on Grenfell Tower and other ‘Metal Composite Materials with a Polyethylene Core’ on all buildings regardless of height, purpose or use
- Extending the ban on flammable materials to ‘solar shading products’ such as shutters and awnings (the ban is already in place for balconies and solar panels attached to external walls)
- New exemptions to the ban on combustible materials, including cavity trays and laminated glass
- Changes to the performance requirements for certain materials
The deadline to respond is 13th April 2020 at 11.45pm.
The consultation document can be found here.
Please note there is also a call for evidence taking place on the assessment of fire risks within existing buildings. The deadline to take part is Monday 17th February at 11.45pm and the document can be found here.
These consultations were announced alongside a number of other measures billed as “the biggest change in building safety for a generation”. But to what extent do the government’s new building safety measures meet tenant demands?
We called for:
- Any new Building Safety Regulator to be properly funded by central government and independent of political and commercial interference. There is no mention yet of funding but the new Building Safety Regulator will be based within the Health and Safety Executive, which is an independent government body.
- A ban on desk-based fire risk assessment. There is no mention of this.
- A ban on combustible cladding, to apply to new and existing buildings. The government is consulting on banning the use of the particular type of cladding that was used on Grenfell Tower on all buildings regardless of height or use. For all other combustible materials, they propose to lower the height threshold of the ban to 11 metres.
- A requirement for sprinklers in new and existing buildings above 11 metres in height. Current guidance only requires sprinklers in new buildings above 30 metres in height. The government are still weighing up feedback from a consultation held last year on whether to reduce this threshold and to what height. There is no proposal to retrofit sprinklers in existing buildings.
- Mandatory annual fire drills for residential tower blocks above 11 metres in height. There is no mention of this.
- A compensation scheme for families affected by compliance breaches. There is no mention of this.
- Criminal offences to be introduced for compliance breaches. There is no mention of this.
While there are some overdue steps forward, this is certainly not the big change we were promised or that tenants and residents living in high rise blocks as well as families and survivors of tower block fires deserve.