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Pace of change in building regulations post-Grenfell not sufficient, MPs told

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A consultation was launched on proposals to reform building safety requirements.

Grenfell Tower

The pace of change to overhaul building safety regulations following the Grenfell Tower fire has not been sufficient, MPs have been told.

The Government launched a consultation in June on proposals to reform building safety requirements post-Grenfell following the recommendations of the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety last year.

But the review’s chairwoman Dame Judith Hackitt told the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee on Monday that it was unfortunate it had taken “so long to get this far”.

When asked if the pace of change had been sufficient, she said “not at all”.

Judith Hackitt
File pic of Dame Judith Hackitt (Archive/PA)

She added: “I think it is a matter of some regret it has taken this long to get this far.

“I set out on the task of producing this report and it was impressed upon me the urgency of doing that.

“We stuck to our timetable, produced that in a matter of 10 months, and it seems unfortunate that from then on it has taken so long to get this far.”

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In her report, Dame Judith found that indifference and ignorance led to a “race to the bottom” in building safety practices, recommending the creation of a new regulator.

Proposals in the Government’s consultation include giving residents a stronger voice, plans for a new building safety regulator, and strengthening enforcement and sanctions to deter non-compliance with the new regime.

Dame Judith told the committee she was “hugely encouraged” by the scope of the consultation and that it stuck closely to the recommendations of her report.

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But she told the committee that momentum had been lost and added: “Whilst it’s great that it is out there now, we have lost momentum and it’s an important statement of intent now, but we have really, really got to get on with it.”

When asked if the problem was that the Government had not committed itself to as tight a timetable as her review had she said “yes, I think so”.

Dame Judith added: “For the people who matter at the heart of this process, this is hugely important and I think it’s really disappointing that we haven’t been able to move more quickly to give them the assurance that they needed that things really were going to change.”

But Housing Minister Kit Malthouse said that a “massive amount” of work had taken place including the ban on combustible cladding and work on remediation.

He added: “There’s always a kind of demand on Government to move as fast as possible and I understand impatience on such an important issue and one that came after such a horrific event.

“Given the complexity of what we have had to pull together I am relatively pleased with the progress.”

Dame Judith also warned that buildings built since the blaze which killed 72 people in June 2017 could have been built to standards “no longer fit for purpose”.

She added: “One of my biggest concerns right now is that for the last two years we have carried on building buildings to a set of standards we now know are not fit for purpose.

“The longer we carry on before we put this regulatory framework in place the more buildings we are putting on to our housing stock that will need our rectification process so the sooner we get on with this the better.”

But Mr Malthouse told the committee he was not aware of any developer building unsafe buildings.

He added: “I haven’t heard anybody claiming we are still currently building unsafe buildings and I would be very surprised if there were any developer who were doing so.”

Grenfell Tower
Grenfell Tower after the fire (David Mirzoeff/PA)

Last week the committee published a report accusing the Government of being “far too slow” in its response, and warned that the £200 million set aside for remediation of private sector residential buildings with aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding will not be enough.

The spread of the fire at Grenfell has been linked to the use of ACM in its cladding.

But when asked if the £200 million was enough remediate all the buildings with ACM cladding Mr Malthouse said: “We think so, yes.”

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