In the first law change on building and fire safety since the Grenfell fire of June 2017, the government have banned the use of combustible materials on new high-rise buildings.
The regulations were announced in Parliament on Thursday 29th November 2018, following the first announcement of the ban back in summer. The new law not only bans the use of dangerous cladding on new buildings, but also gives councils the authority to strip it from private high-rise buildings, on the basis that the costs will be reclaimed from landlords.
The change, which forces compliance with new health and safety regulations, comes after too many landlords failed to produce plans to remove the dangerous ‘Grenfell-style’ cladding. James Brokenshire, Secretary of State for Communities explained:
“Everyone has the right to feel safe in their homes and I have repeatedly made clear that building owners and developers must replace dangerous ACM cladding.”
The Grenfell enquiry discovered a total of 289 privately owned high-rise residential blocks were cladded in similar aluminium composite (ACM) to Grenfell, but only 40 have so far had the panels removed, or the work at least started. 147 have plans underway or in development, but 102 buildings have seemingly taken no action, requiring the forceful ban to be put into place. Brokenshire continued:
“My message is clear: private buildings owners must pay for this work now or they should expect to pay more later.”
So, what exactly does the change mean? Well, the ban, which comes into effect on the 21st December 2018, in a bid to “make buildings permanently safe without delay”, applies to the use of combustible materials in external walls of new buildings (over 18 metres tall) containing flats.
New hospitals, residential care homes, boarding school dormitories and student accommodation over 18 metres tall will also be required to fall in line with the terms of the ban, as well as schools built as part of the government’s centrally delivered build programmes.
What the ban doesn’t apply to however, is doors, windows and seals, and thermal break materials. Though the government have stated that they are keeping this under review, a sign that this really is the first step into a much longer, ongoing enquiry.
That said, the news will no doubt come as a relief to the residents of such buildings, as well as the leaseholders who were previously at threat of having the charges billed against them. Not only that, but it provides a level of clarity for owners and property managers on what materials can and cannot be used, meaning further work can commence.