The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has been forced to set aside elements of a suite of building-safety measures introduced following the Grenfell Tower fire after a High Court challenge.
Trade body the British Blind and Shutter Association (BBSA) questioned the lawfulness of part of the Building (Amendment) Regulations 2018 because they effectively banned products made or sold by its members from being installed on buildings taller than 18 metres.
It said the requirements specified for external shutters, awnings and roller blinds in the regulations were currently impossible to meet, because it was not possible to make the fabrics for the products. The BBSA also argued that the consultation on the new regulations had not been conducted properly.
The trade body said that despite taking a keen interest in all government consultations that potentially impacted members, it had been “taken by surprise” that the outcome of an eight-week consultation titled “Banning the use of combustible materials in the external walls of high-rise residential buildings” was that products sold by members being banned.
Judge Mrs Justice Steyn said in her judgment that parts of the consultation process, which was launched by then housing secretary James Brokenshire, had been “so unfair as to be unlawful”.
“I conclude that the consultation failed to comply with the requirement to ‘let those who have a potential interest in the subject matter know in clear terms what the proposal is’ and the consultation in respect of regulation 6(2)(b)(ii) was so unfair as to be unlawful,” she said.
The 27-page judgment said no evidence had been put before the court to suggest that the use of combustible materials in products like external shutters, awnings and roller blinds created a fire risk.
However the judge accepted that it had not been “irrational” for Brokenshire to bring BBSA members’ products within the scope of the ban.
“He was entitled to be guided by the view of his technical experts, that the risk of fire spread relates to the location arrangement and materials used in the construction of any attachment, not to its intended use,” she said.
BBSA’s legal team said the judge had quashed the relevant provisions of the regulations and had awarded costs to the trade body.
They added that MHCLG had confirmed it would not seek to appeal the decision.
MHCLG had not responded to CSW’s request for comment at the time of publication.