NFCC Chair calls for the identification and urgent removal of unsafe cladding

The Chair of the National Fire Chiefs Council has called for the urgent removal of unsafe cladding systems from buildings and for the identification of any similar systems to be made a priority. This was one of the areas he highlighted during the evidence session to the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee (HCLG), part of its inquiry into the independent review of building regulations.

NFCC Chair Roy Wilsher was very clear that the removal needs to go beyond ACM cladding – similar to the type on Grenfell Tower – and must include other flammable materials. He stated that ‘while ACM3 is ‘uniquely dangerous’, there may be other types which need to be identified and removed.

The oral evidence session took place yesterday (Monday July 8th) and heard evidence from a number of witnesses, including the NFCC Chair, Grenfell United, the Association of Residential Management Agents, the LGA and the Royal Institute of British Architects.  

Roy Wilsher commented: “The simple answer to whether NFCC is satisfied with the pace of change by government since the Grenfell Tower fire is ‘no’. We were one of the organisations who in the days following the fire said that Government should fund the removal of cladding and recover the costs later. I remain concerned about how this will move forward and we may well need emergency powers to enable the removal of all dangerous cladding.  

“While the Government’s funding to support the removal of dangerous cladding is a welcome, to date, less than a quarter of those premises identified have been fully remediated. People need to feel safe in their own home and there is currently a significant risk of a further serious incident.

Mr Wilsher’s evidence included the importance of more widespread fitting of sprinklers, including schools, new residential high-rise buildings over 18 metres in height and retro-fitting in high-rise buildings above 30 metres.  England’s legislation is falling behind legislation in Wales and Scotland and this needs to change.

NFCC want to see the government to prioritise sprinklers in the review of building regulations, requiring the use of sprinklers and other systems where the risk is greatest.

Roy Wilsher also raised concerns about funding for fire and rescue services to carry out vital protection work. During the last ten years, fire services have lost 40 per cent of inspecting officers – a role that can take years of training, particularly for a fire engineer. The Fire and Rescue Service wants to heavily involved in building safety for the future but any new responsibilities need to be adequately resourced.

“It is vital we are involved in regulatory work and continue to influence any national regulator, while carrying out work at a local level. Fire services must be properly resourced to carry this work out, and I am in discussions with the Home Office about this to look at how we make this a reality.”

During the session. Mr Wilsher also said it cannot be left to the construction industry to move regulations forward. He said that “modern methods of construction need to be tested to ensure they are fire safe.”

  • Areas the Select Committee focused on included: Whether witnesses were ‘satisfied’ with the pace of change set by the government; Dame Judith Hackitt’s concerns Government has lost momentum; whether there were areas the Government should pay more attention to; proposal for a national building safety regulator; periodic reviews of regulations, the recent Barking fire at a high-rise with wooden balconies and whether the 18 metre threshold applied to the definition of higher risk residential buildings should be reviewed.
  • HCLG has held a number of evidence sessions following the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, looking at longer-term changes which are needed to improve the safety of residential tower blocks, and how improvements can be applied more widely in the construction industry. It is exploring what immediate, specific changes need to be made to regulations. It will also look at how the longer term systemic and cultural changes proposed by the Independent Review can be implemented, and how these apply to the construction industry more widely.
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