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Queen’s Speech sets out planned regulatory regime for building safety

14 Oct 19 Plans to introduce new regulatory regimes for building safety and construction products have been set out by the government in the Queen’s Speech.

The Grenfell Tower fire prompted a review of building safety
The Grenfell Tower fire prompted a review of building safety

Those responsible for the safety of high-rise buildings would be made more accountable, with stronger duties and competence requirements imposed. Aims include developing a new system for oversight of the whole built environment, with local enforcement agencies and national regulators working together to ensure that the safety of all buildings is improved. All developers of new build homes would have to belong to a New Homes Ombudsman scheme

The legislation would aim to use the lessons from the Grenfell Tower fire to bring about a fundamental change in the ​regulatory ​ framework ​for high-rise residential buildings and in industry culture to ensure accountability and responsibility.

One of the main elements of the proposed legislation is a new safety framework for high-rise residential buildings, ​taking forward the recommendations from Dame Judith Hackitt’s independent review of building safety. In some cases, it would go further. There would be providing clearer accountability for, and stronger duties on, those responsible for the safety of high-rise buildings throughout the building’s design, construction and occupation, with clear competence requirements to ensure high standards are upheld.

There would be a strengthening ​ of enforcement and sanctions to deter non-compliance with the new regime in order to hold the right people to account when mistakes are made and ensure they are not repeated.

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The government also wants to developing a ​new ​ framework to provide national oversight of construction products, to ensure all products meet high performance standards. This aspect of the legislation would have UK-wide scope, although other provisions would in the main apply to England only.

The plans also involve giving residents a stronger voice in the system, ensuring their concerns are never ignored and they fully understand how they can contribute to maintaining safety in their buildings.

Dame Judith Hackitt’s independent review found that ​that the current regulatory system is not fit for purpose in relation to high-rise and complex buildings. The government said that it is taking forward all 53 of Dame Judith’s recommendations and in some areas going further. It estimates that the new regime will apply to over 11,000 high rise buildings, rising to almost 15,000 buildings within 10 years.

New legislation regarding the implementation of building safety standards needs to be underpinned by a mandatory licensing scheme for all UK construction companies, said the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) in response to the Queen's Speech. FMB chief executive Brian Berry said: “The Queen’s announcement that the government will bring forward new rigorous laws forcing compliance with building safety standards is an important and essential step in improving safety and confidence in our built environment. After the Grenfell fire tragedy it’s essential that we raise the bar in construction. However, the government must go further still and publicly consult on a mandatory licensing scheme for all UK construction companies. This would serve to remove from the industry any firm that ignores health and safety procedure and risks safety in and around the built environment. Licensing would also remove rogue traders that bring the image of builders into disrepute, whether they are operating in the private domestic sector or in the supply chain on a large commercial site. We now await further details on this bill and whether it will have the teeth it needs to improve the construction sector.”

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