On 2 April 2020, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government issued its detailed response to the Building a Safer Future consultation, published on 6 June 2019.
This consultation was issued in response to the findings of Dame Judith Hackitt's Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, in which it was recommended that a new regulatory regime was required in order to achieve cultural change within the fire safety and built environment sector. In total, 871 responses were received from a range of stakeholders and we summarise the key findings:
1. The Government plans to legislate for its proposed reforms in new primary legislation, namely the Building Safety Bill, which is subject to further review and debate by Parliament.
2. The proposed regulatory reforms cover the performance of all buildings as well as specific reforms relating to the management of fire risks in new and existing high-rise buildings. The reforms will apply to England only (although those applying to certain construction products will apply across the United Kingdom).
3. A new national Building Safety Regulator will be established that will have the following roles:
- In relation to high-rise buildings:
- implementation of a more stringent regulatory regime; and
- responsibility for all major regulatory decisions made at key points during the design, construction, occupation and refurbishment of buildings.
- In relation to all buildings:
- oversight of the ultimate safety and performance of buildings; and
- responsibility for promoting the competence of all professionals working within the industry.
4. In addition, the Building Safety Regulator is responsible for keeping the scope of the new regulatory regime under review and providing advice to Government when the evidence suggests that it should be extended (i.e. to extend beyond buildings above 18m).
5. To ensure accountability for compliance with the new regime, a system of 'duty-holders' will also be introduced, who will have clear responsibilities at each stage of the building's lifecycle. Some of these responsibilities will run throughout the building's lifecycle, while others will apply at particular stages. The Regulator will be empowered to enforce sanctions against the 'duty-holders' (and others).
6. In response to overwhelming feedback, residents living in buildings in scope will become more empowered as part of the new regulatory regime. They will be able to challenge where they feel building safety is not being properly managed, including a right to receive information about the safety of their building and to be involved in decisions affecting the building's safety.
7. Introduction of a new national Construction Products regulatory role. As part of this role, this regulator will be responsible for overseeing local enforcement action and maintaining a national complaints system.
The Building Safety Regulator will have powers to intervene to secure compliance with the new regime. Initially at least, it is anticipated that this would be through the issuing of informal advice. However, it will also be able to issue 'stop', 'compliance' or 'improvement' notices, breach of which will be a criminal offence.
If the notices also fail to achieve building safety compliance, the Regulator will also have the power to take other enforcement action against the duty-holders potentially leading to an unlimited fine.
Time will tell how the Building Safety Bill will progress through Parliament towards Royal Assent. Given, however, that the proposals for reform are based on such a large response from across the industry, it is hoped that the Bill will progress through with minimal obstacles.
If you have any queries, please contact Sue Ryan or Tom George.