New laws being proposed by the government are set to usher in the most comprehensive overhaul in building regulations for 40 years.
Ministers will appoint the UK’s first chief inspector of buildings in a raft of reforms prompted by the Grenfell Tower disaster and to address the fact that thousands of other high-rise buildings across the country are currently in breach of fire safety regulations.
The chief inspector role will head up a national regulator of building safety who will also oversee a system that will designate an “accountable person” for each high-rise building. The accountable person will also have to respond to any residents’ complaints that may be made about safety. Many residents at Grenfell Tower said that their fears about safety were ignored by their landlords before the fire which took place on 14 June 2017, killing 72 people.
The national regulator of building safety will introduce new complaints handling requirements “to make sure effective action is taken where concerns are raised”. The proposals are outlined in a new Building Safety bill due to be published by the government today which will “ensure that high-rise buildings and the people who live in them are being kept safe and will have new powers to raise and enforce higher standards of safety and performance across all buildings,” said a spokesperson for the Department of Housing, Communities and Local Government.
A key role of the new regulator will be to improve the competence of people responsible for managing and overseeing building work and the government hopes that the bill and the regulator’s wide powers will prevent a disaster like Grenfell ever happening again. Robert Jenrick, the housing minister, commented: “I am calling on the industry to actively prepare for these changes now. It is vital that the sector moves in step with us, to provide confidence and reassurance to residents that their safety is firmly at the heart of everything we do.”
Judith Hackitt, whose official review of building safety after the Grenfell fire has led to the new legislative measures has given her backing to the bill, saying: “It meets the ambitions and recommendations set out in my review.”
The first draft of the bill will now be examined in detail by a parliamentary select committee before a the final version is drawn up by the government and laid before MPs in the autumn.