The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has announced that the department’s planned building safety regulator will be based in the Health and Safety Executive as it confirmed a series of moves to improve building safety standards after the Grenfell Tower fire.
In a statement yesterday, housing secretary Robert Jenrick said that the government was committed to delivering “the biggest change in building safety for a generation”, and also pledged to name and shame building owners who have not removed unsafe cladding.
Jenrick said that “progress on improving building safety needs to move significantly faster to ensure people are safe in their homes”, as he announced measures as part of the government’s response to the phase 1 of the public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower tragedy. 72 people died when the building in West London was engulfed in flames in June 2017.
Among the measures announced yesterday was the immediate formation of the Building Safety Regulator within the Health and Safety Executive. Government had previously pledged to form a new regulator, with its base in the HSE now confirmed. The HSE will establish the new regulator in shadow form immediately, ahead of it being fully established, following legislation, with a remit to raise building safety and performance standards, including overseeing a new, more stringent regime for higher-risk buildings.
Dame Judith Hackitt, who undertook an independent review of building regulations and fire safety for MHCLG following the fire, will oversee the creation of the regulator.
HSE chair Martin Temple said that its “vast experience of working in partnership with industry and others to improve lives will ensure people are confident the creation of the new regulator is in good hands”.
Jenrick also said that from next month he will start to name building owners where remediation has not started to remove unsafe Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) cladding from their buildings.
The housing secretary said there has been considerable progress in removing the cladding, which has been blamed for the spread of the fire in Grenfell, but there were still some building owners who have been too slow to act.
“Unless swift progress is seen in the coming weeks, I will publicly name building owners where action to remediate unsafe ACM cladding has not started,” he told MPs. “There can be no more excuses for delay, I’m demanding immediate action.”
In order to help speed action, MHCLG will appoint a construction expert to review remediation timescales and identify what can be done to improve pace in the private sector. Officials are also considering options to support the remediation of buildings, to ensure cost is not a barrier to the necessary work, and also examining options to mitigate costs for individuals or provide alternative financing routes.
Responding to the creation of the new regulator, Garry Graham, Prospect deputy general secretary, said that he welcomes its inclusion within the Health and Safety Executive.
“HSE has a breadth of regulatory experience at its disposal and it is a deserved vote of confidence in its staff that it will be managing the formation of the new regulator,” he said.
“Over the past few years, however, funding constraint has led to more and more pressure being put on HSE staff with recruitment and retention falling behind requirements. It is essential that the formation of the new body is backed up by appropriate levels of both funding and regulation to give it the teeth and resources it needs to do a proper job.”