Grenfell Tower fire and Hackitt Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety
On 14 June 2017, a large fire in Grenfell Tower – a high-rise apartment block in West London – caused 72 deaths and over 70 further non-fatal injuries. Public Health England was involved in the initial public health response, providing advice for residents on air quality, smoke exposure and asbestos. The tragedy had significant implications for environmental health policy.
Hackitt Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety
The following month, Home Secretary Sajid Javid announced an Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety – led by Dame Judith Hackitt, a respected expert in building safety – to make policy recommendations on the safety of high-rise residential buildings.
Building a Safer Future, the final report of the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety was published on 16 May 2018. The report made over 50 recommendations to change the regulatory system for building and fire safety.
The report focused on higher-risk residential buildings (HRRBs) with 10 or more storeys and included the following recommendations:
- a new regulatory framework
- a new Joint Competent Authority (JCA) made up of Local Authority Building Standards, fire and rescue authorities and the Health and Safety Executive to direct safety risk management
- a mandatory incident reporting mechanism for dutyholders
- a single regulatory route to manage building standards, provided through Local Authority Building Standards, with Approved Inspectors to develop local authority skills
- an identifiable dutyholder responsible for safety of the whole building, working with residents to ensure fire safety
- a more effective testing regime for construction products with clearer labelling and traceability
- a digital record for new HRRBs covering design to construction phases and any changes during occupation.
The government responded to the Hackitt Review’s recommendations in Building a safer future: an implementation plan in December 2018. They set out plans to ‘deliver fundamental reform to the system that will ensure that residents are safe, and feel safe, in their homes’.
Combustible materials ban
Responding to the Hackitt review report, Chairman of the Local Government Association Lord Porter had expressed disappointment that ‘Dame Judith has stopped short of recommending a ban on combustible materials [on complex and high-rise buildings] and the use of desktop studies, both essential measures to improve safety.’
In the context of this and similar criticism from other stakeholders, the government consulted on a potential ban.
In November 2018, it introduced regulations preventing the use of combustible materials on the external walls of new high-rise homes over 18 metres, and other buildings including new hospitals and residential care premises.
In July 2019, there remained public and private sector residential buildings where work to remove and replace unsafe cladding had not begun. James Brokenshire, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, announced that enforcement action would be taken against the owners of social housing tower blocks with unsafe cladding who had not committed to remediation by the end of 2019, but this target was then missed.
Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety: final report
Hackitt review: LGA responds to final report.
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government and Brokenshire J.
Government bans combustible materials on high-rise homes.
UK government; 2018.
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government.
Building a safer future: an implementation plan.
House of Commons.
Building Safety: ACM Cladding. 18 July 2019, Volume 663.