fire safety

16 Oct 23

Michael Gove has agreed to develop a fresh set of guidelines to assess the fire safety of interior building spaces. 

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities (DLUHC) is collaborating with the British Standards Institute on a new set of standards that will be released in “the coming months,” the housing secretary has confirmed. 

In the years following the Grenfell Tower fire, determining the fire safety of multi-occupancy buildings has become challenging.

Buildings’ external facades are now subject to a new standard assessment process called PAS 9980, which was published in 2022. However, it has been discovered that many structures also have serious internal flaws, which could necessitate costly repairs that are not covered by government funding schemes.

Mr Gove made the commitment to new internal standards in a meeting with leaseholders impacted by building safety issues, summarised here. A spokesperson for DLUHC did not dispute the contents of the summary when approached by Inside Housing

The leaseholders, who are part of the End Our Cladding Scandal campaign initially formed with the support of Inside Housing, said: “This is long overdue as the government has known for years that safety defects extend far beyond just cladding. 

“Buildings cannot be made half-safe, external and internal issues have the same root cause of a collective state and industry failure to ensure buildings were developed safely, so the government must do all it can to ensure there is a holistic approach to buildings of all heights and defects.”

According to the meeting’s summary, Mr. Gove agreed that remediation timelines were necessary and pledged to contact the CEOs of developers who were failing to follow through on their commitments to fix “life safety issues” at the buildings they had constructed. 

It added that Mr. Gove also agreed to facilitate a meeting with Treasury officials to discuss a levy on construction product manufacturers, a party that has yet to contribute to building safety remediation despite stern warnings from the housing secretary.

e is also said to be considering a “big bang” approach to building insurance, which continues to be a major financial issue for leaseholders stuck in homes with building safety issues. 

Plans to make leaseholders customers under Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) rules to regulate industry practises such as soaring commissions to brokers were published in April, but the government has yet to take forward more radical ideas such as a state-backed scheme. 

The leasehold campaigners said in a statement: “A package of measures, from industry, the FCA and the government is desperately needed and must be in place as soon as possible. The government will have to legislate to effect this and ensure there is an effective way to enforce any new rights leaseholders may be set to receive.”

According to the meeting’s summary, the group also discussed the issue of “non-qualifying” leaseholders, who are disqualified from receiving statutory protection, and the actions of social landlords, calling for the sector to do more to assist clients through “buyback” programs. 

The campaigners said: “This sounded positive but is still far too vague and selective. Tinkering around the edges is nowhere near enough as all leaseholders are innocent and should receive the same protections.”

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