Local authorities fear that, unless the draft legislation is amended, there will be a two-tier building safety regime, with residents of 18-metre buildings afforded more protection than residents of buildings 17 metres high.
The Local Government Association (LGA) is backing an amendment tabled by St Albans MP Daisy Cooper to protect future residents of new buildings under 18 metres not covered by the scope of the bill.
The Building Safety Bill will establish a Building Safety Regulator (BSR) as an office within the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) to implement a more stringent, regulatory regime for higher-risk buildings. These are defined as residential buildings, care homes and hospitals over 18 metres high. Residential buildings under 18 metres out of scope. This will create a two-tier system, the LGA says.
The current scope of the Building Safety Bill would not have covered the Cube student residence in Bolton. During a fire in December 2019, the flammable cladding on the Cube rendered the only staircase unusable within half an hour. One resident was rescued from the top floor of the building moments before her flat was destroyed by fire. Had the fire taken place at night, when residents were asleep, fatalities would have been likely.
Cllr David Renard, housing spokesperson at the Local Government Association, said: “The Building Safety Bill, along with the Fire Safety Act, are important pieces of legislation that will strengthen the building safety system in the UK. The LGA has long-warned about the need for building safety reforms to avoid creating a two-tier building safety system which leaves buildings under 18 metres vulnerable and unprotected. The height of a building does not define the risk to its safety, as has been proven by a number of dangerous and potentially fatal fires in buildings below 18 metres.
“We urge MPs to back these amendments to ensure the extension of the bill’s protection to those buildings under 18 metres that require it on the basis of risk is hardwired into the legislation.”