A Clearer Future for Fire Safety?

Insights - 12/11/2018

Aranja Thamotharampillai, a solicitor in our Commercial Property department, looks at recent announcements released by the Government in relation to the cladding ban. This review follows on from Cathryn Pernstich’s article ‘The Aftermath of Grenfell’ written on 06 November 2017.

Following the tragedy that was Grenfell, the Government has conducted a review of fire safety measures, as well as holding the Enquiry that investigated the fire, its causes and outcomes. Out of that review, the Government announced a series of housing measures, and one prohibition plays a significant role for property owners and home builders.

Combustible cladding is now banned for all high-rising buildings above 18m (60ft) that contain flats.  The ban also applies to hospitals, residential care premises and student accommodations. This move has been awaited by many since the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017 and will no doubt be viewed as a welcome result. The cladding believed to have been used on Grenfell Tower was unlawful under previous building regulations and should not have been used. The Government now hope this ban can provide certainty to concerned residents and to the construction industry about which materials can and cannot be used on high-rise residential buildings.

This ban covers all combustible materials on new buildings and includes cladding as well. It will not be applied retrospectively where materials have already been fitted. It could be argued that the ban does not go far enough, as is the safety of those living in existing buildings not as valued as those living in buildings which do have such combustible materials in/on them?  What will happen to those buildings?  Will they become a pariah of the property world – unable to be let and to be sold or only at a low value?  Unable to be insured or charged?  If renovation works are done to remove those materials who will pay?  Can the property owner re-charge the cost to its tenants?  Will the property owner have to bear the cost itself and, if it does, how will it fund those costs?  Many questions that will no doubt come to light and which will probably be answered over time.

Previously all insulation and filler materials for cladding on high-rise buildings had to be of ‘limited combustibility’. Now, however, the ban will limit materials that can be used to those products which achieve a European classification of Class A1 or A2. The ban will be policed through the building regulation system, so will become an integral part of the build and sign off process.  Policing the matter in this way should enable direct comfort and visibility to be given to the end user of the property, so perhaps putting value and the ability to sell, let and charge a property back into the running.

The ban is estimated to cost the market between £7.5 million to £11 million annually.  Regardless of the financial cost, it can no doubt be agreed to be justified on a moral on emotional level so as achieve a regime that is clear, effective and above all, safe.

If you have any questions or would like to discuss any of the issues raised in this blog, please feel free to contact Aranja Thamotharampillai, a solicitor within our Commercial Property Team.  Aranja is contactable by telephone on 01737 854 527 or by email on [email protected]

Disclaimer:

Although correct at the time of publication, the contents of this newsletter/blog are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute, legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article. Please contact us for the latest legal position.