Post-Grenfell Legislation Called Into Question
Back in 2017, the Grenfell Tower burst into flames. The problem was accelerated by combustible cladding, external insulation and air gaps, which have been a major point of contention with housebuilders and developers ever since. Three months after the fire, an inquiry was launched and two years later, the findings were released.
According to the Guardian, the cost of the Grenfell disaster has gone up to £1.2 billion. This amount is now 4,000 times the amount that was saved by using cheaper cladding. Nabil Choucair described the difference between this and the £150 million settlement as a disgrace. He lost six members of his family in the fire.
More recently, the Auditor General for Wales has called into question the implementation of legislation that was brought in following the Grenfell Tower fire. The Welsh Government currently has no clear plans or resources to solve the issues that came about because of the tragedy.
The current system was not fit for purpose, which was the result of the independent review of Building Regulations and fire safety. As a result, the Building Safety Act, 2022 came into effect in April last year. All builders and developers are required to meet the standards of this Act in October 2023, when it will be fully implemented.
Adrian Compton, the Auditor General, has reported on the Welsh Government’s response to the Act. His findings report that local authorities in particular, as well as fire and rescue teams, aren’t able to manage their responsibilities to ensure buildings in Wales are safe. According to the report, there are differences in key policy areas between both the UK and Welsh Governments.
Alarmingly, with new responsibilities needed to be ironed out and implemented, most local authorities are woefully unprepared, with no clear indication of how they will be delivered. More concerns were thrown at building control financial management, which concluded that current policies were practically unlawful.
The main takeaways from the Act are that the construction industry needed to give residents more powers and rights to protect them from unsafe buildings. The regulations were overhauled to create lasting change in how buildings are constructed and managed to lower the risk of fires and dangers. In effect, residents need to feel safe and secure where they live and know that their issues are addressed.
High rise buildings with insufficient cladding across the UK need to have it removed or replaced, which comes at a massive cost. According to the Act, building owners cannot legally call on leaseholders to pay for it, which protects them even further from insurmountable costs.
Now that real fears that the legislation won’t be delivered have been identified in Wales, will the same issues be present across the rest of the UK? One freeholder has already been threatened with court action in Stevenage for a 15 storey block of flats, but there is no formal prosecution procedure under the Act. You can see a full list of Building Safety Regulator powers on the Health and Safety Executive website.