Published 21 July 2021

NFCC responds to the Second Reading of the Building Safety Bill: An important milestone contributing to essential developments in building safety

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Responding to the Second Reading of the Building Safety Bill, NFCC Chair, Mark Hardingham said: “This legislation is an important milestone that will contribute to essential developments in building safety.

“The Bill requires new levels of scrutiny; provides for changes to be made to planning and building control functions; introduces oversight from a new regulator; places new duties on those responsible for buildings; and provides a new focus on the needs of residents.

“Crucially, it removes the ability for clients to choose their own regulator for buildings within scope, which we believe is key to creating the right incentives for people to follow the rules. This change in law is critical to fixing the broken culture within the industry.

“In terms of scope, we welcome the response to our calls to include buildings such as care homes and hospitals in the new build process. We will continue to push to see this expand further to include care home and hospital buildings at all heights. We believe that more vulnerable groups and higher risk premises could be recognised within the Gateways process from the outset.

This legislation is an important milestone that will contribute to essential developments in building safety.

NFCC Chair, Mark Hardingham

“The original work carried out by Dame Judith Hackitt identified an environment that was overly complex and not fit for purpose. There was a strong focus on the need to simplify and reduce the number of overlapping regulations. The enabling nature of the Bill means that a lot of the detail is yet to be seen. We want Government to continue to engage with NFCC and other partners in a timely and constructive way to ensure that the legislation is sufficiently robust and fit for purpose.

“We continue to hold concerns about the costs of historic remediation being passed onto leaseholders. Whilst we welcome the funding announced so far, we do not believe that the costs of serious building defects should end with leaseholders and support the action for costs to be recovered from those who design and construct buildings. The amendments to expand the limitation period for the Defective Premises Act are welcome.”

Responding to the advice on building safety in medium and lower-rise blocks of flats, Mark Hardingham continued:

“We recognise the huge financial and emotional impact on people who are living in blocks of flats, especially lower rise buildings. We fully support this new advice and welcome the challenge to those who are applying an overly risk averse approach in many buildings below 18m, in particular surveyors, insurers and fire risk assessors. We will work closely with fire and rescue services to best apply the advice for the buildings in their area.

“We expect this will start to redress the balance where disproportionate mitigation measures have been put in place to manage fire risks. We trust that this will reduce the financial burden on leaseholders who are, far too often and wrongly, bearing the financial consequences for interim measures and other disproportionate changes as a result of historic building defects.

“The delays in remediation mean that residents and leaseholders are experiencing significant and long term consequences – these include the ongoing high costs of waking watches and insurance products, an inability to sell or re-mortgage their properties, financial stress and unacceptable, life changing, impacts on their mental health and wellbeing.

“These very real and damaging impacts on leaseholders have to be considered against the potential risk posed by the building defects. For example, we have been clear that a waking watch should only ever be considered for use on a short term temporary basis, as a measure which can be put in place immediately when a significant risk to life is identified.

“It is for Responsible Persons for affected buildings to ensure the fire safety arrangements, including the interim measures in place are appropriate and proportionate. We want to ensure that buildings are safe and fire and rescue services, where informed, have worked to ensure any interim arrangements put in place are sufficient and proportionate to the risk.

“NFCC does not support the ongoing and prolonged use of a waking watch and we expect this new advice to further inform assessments and re-assessments in buildings below 18m with a waking watch. We have repeatedly called on building owners to install common fire alarms to reduce or remove the dependence on waking watches, and this is the clear expectation for buildings where sustainable mitigation or remediation cannot be undertaken in the short term.”