Fire Chiefs Broadly Welcome Hackitt Plans

The National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) has welcomed announcements made today that the Government will accept most of the findings from Dame Judith Hackitt’s Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, but expressed concern that key aspects need to go further.

Today’s Implementation Plan, published by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, James Brokenshire, laid out the Government’s response to the Independent Review and a plan to consult on further details in 2019.

NFCC Chair, Roy Wilsher, welcomed the Government’s plan to consult on the definition of high-risk buildings, noting “NFCC remain disappointed that Dame Judith’s working groups did not consult on what constitutes a high-risk building. The result was an arbitrary recommendation based on limited analysis, which has hampered further progress from being made to date. We believe the regime should apply more widely to buildings where a considerable number of people sleep, and be built on better risk information.”

Mark Hardingham, Chair of the Protection and Business Safety Committee added “We are pleased the Government has now called for evidence on a full technical review of Approved Document B (ADB). The NFCC will be calling for improvements to sprinkler requirements, firefighting access and other provisions needed to help make communities safer, such as technical requirements for fire hydrants.”

Terry McDermott, NFCC lead for Automatic Water Suppression Systems added “Sprinkler requirements in Wales and Scotland surpass those in England, including domestic sprinklers in new social housing developments and suppression systems in new homes.  This month, Scotland announced changes to reduce some height related building regulations requirements from 18 metres to 11 metres, and where possible, extend mandatory installation of sprinklers in flats, regardless of height, and in larger multi-occupancy dwellings and those which provide care. NFCC would like to see English standards enhanced to improve consistency and public safety across the UK.”

Roy Wilsher added “Recent announcements to ban dangerous cladding are welcomed, but we remain disappointed the ban does not go further and apply to buildings of any height. People in buildings below 18 metres should be afforded the same protection as those in other buildings. This threshold is a historical height which does not reflect modern firefighting equipment and practices. As such, we hope the review of ADB will properly reconsider the appropriateness of the 18 metre threshold.”

NFCC is also concerned that issues about the competency of those in the building and fire safety sector remain and were highlighted in detail by Dame Judith Hackitt in her report.  Urgent action is needed to address this skills gap otherwise the plans to improve the oversight of a building’s design, construction and maintenance, will be thwarted because of insufficient numbers of people with the relevant skills, qualifications, and behaviours to provide the proper scrutiny.  

The NFCC recommends that:  

  • Sprinklers become a requirement in all new high-rise residential structures at 18 metres and above, linked to any future revisions of height thresholds.
  • That height thresholds are re-examined through the review of Approved Document B.
  •   Student accommodation should be included within sprinkler requirements.
  • Where high-rise residential buildings currently exceed 30 metres there should be a requirement to retrofit sprinklers when these buildings are scheduled to be refurbished.
  • prinklers should be retrofitted where high-rise residential buildings over 30 metres are served by a single staircase, regardless of future refurbishment.
  • Sprinklers should be provided in new residential care premises and specialised housing.

Mr Hardingham concluded “The NFCC is pleased to become a member of the Joint Regulators Group announced today. We look forward to working more closely with colleagues to ensure that we make progress towards better building safety, and to test and develop new approaches.” 

“The NFCC agrees that the regimes regulating housing and fire safety do not interact to ensure that fire and structural safety is adequately prioritised for residents. We look forward to working with the Government on how to ensure fire and housing legislation is amended to address these issues.”   

Full written statement

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