4 things that need to happen to improve fire safety after the Grenfell Tower fire

MPs find that cladding, sprinklers and cultural change are urgently needed

The tragic fire at Grenfell Tower in June 2017 demonstrated the need for an urgent and comprehensive review of building regulations.

The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee, 11 MPs from different political parties, have heard from a range of people, and have recommended 4 key actions that the Government must now take.

The Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety

Following the fire at Grenfell Tower, the Government launched an Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety to urgently assess the effectiveness of current building regulations and fire safety and provide reassurance to residents.

The Independent Review published its Final Report, 'Building a Safer Future' in May 2018. 

While it made several important recommendations, not least around the need for cultural change in the industry, much of the reaction to the report focused on what the Independent Review had not recommended: in particular, a complete ban on combustible cladding. Nevertheless, the Government did subsequently launch a consultation into such a ban.

The Independent Review did not go far enough.

"No one should go to sleep at night knowing they have got combustible cladding wrapped round their building…
It should be banned, and it should be banned now."
- Natasha Elcock, Grenfell United

The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee therefore decided to hear from a range of people to find out what else needed to happen.

They heard from industry representatives, fire safety experts, building owners and insurers, and Grenfell campaigners.

4 things the Government must do to protect others from fire

1. Combustible cladding should be banned on existing high-rise residential buildings - not just new ones

Image credit: Brandon Butterworth

More than a year has passed since the Grenfell Tower fire and it is unacceptable that so many private buildings continue to have unsafe cladding.

It cannot be right for dangerous cladding to be banned from new buildings, but for it to continue to be permitted on existing buildings.

Combustible cladding should also be removed from hospitals, student accommodation and hotels.

2. Sprinklers need to be retrofitted to all high-rise residential buildings, where structurally feasible

The Government should make funding available to fit sprinklers into council and housing association-owned residential buildings above 18 metres, and issue guidance to that affect to building owners in the private sector.

There is also strong evidence that the Government should require sprinkler systems be installed in a wider range of buildings, including student accommodation, hospitals and large commercial warehouses.

3. Conflicts of interest in the construction industry - such as companies arranging their own inspections - need to be removed

The Committee are concerned that conflicts of interest are pervasive within the industry. 

It is concerning that some manufacturers are known to shop-around for the most lenient product testing bodies in the expectation of an easier certification process.

We need a new testing regime that has much wider industry support and can be fully trusted.

4. The Government should introduce a loan scheme to help remove combustible cladding from private buildings

Carlos Delgado; CC-BY-SA

To avoid any further delay, the Committee propose that the Government introduces a low-interest loan scheme for private sector building owners, to ensure that remedial work is carried out as quickly as possible and that costs need not immediately be passed on to leaseholders.

The Government has two months to respond to our report. To read more depth and detail about our recommendations, read the report on Independent review of building regulations and fire safety: next steps [PDF] or see more on our website.

If you're interested in the work of the Committee, find out more about their other inquiries.