NEWS Combustibles ban confirmed

HOUSING SECRETARY James Brokenshire has banned combustible materials from new high rise buildings, and given local authorities power to ensure private buildings are reclad. In a press release, the government confirmed the ban announced last summer on combustible material use in new high rises, with regulations laid out in parliament that will ‘give legal effect’. Combustible materials will not be permitted on external walls of new buildings 18m tall or higher that contain flats, hospitals, residential care premises, boarding school dormitories or student accommodation. Schools over 18m in height and built as part of the government’s centrally delivered build programmes will also not be using combustible materials on external walls, and Mr Brokenshire was ‘taking action to speed up’ replacement of aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding. Local authorities ‘will get the

government’s full backing’, including financial support ‘if necessary’, to enable emergency work on affected private residential buildings. The government will recover the costs from building owners, and allow buildings ‘to be made permanently safe without delay’, as it is already fully funding ACM replacement on social housing high rises 18m or higher. Mr Brokenshire commented:

‘Everyone has a right to feel safe in their homes and I have repeatedly made clear that building owners and developers must replace dangerous ACM cladding. And the costs must not be passed on to leaseholders. My message is clear – private building owners must pay for this work now or they should expect to pay more later.’

Industry responses

Jonathan O’Neill, managing director of the FPA, commented: ‘The Fire Protection Association welcomes the announcement, but we would urge the ministry to urgently consider banning the use of combustible materials for all high risk occupancies regardless of the height of the building. We also believe they need to build


on the work we published (see p9) and to consider the toxicity of all building materials in the case of fire.’ The NFCC ‘broadly welcomed’

the ban, but chair Roy Wilsher commented: ‘I am disappointed this ban does not go further and apply to buildings of any height. Buildings below 18 metres should be afforded the same protection as other buildings. ‘This threshold is a historical height which does not reflect modern firefighting equipment and practices. As such, we hope the full review of Approved Document B [ADB] that the Government has committed to will properly reconsider the appropriateness of the 18 metre threshold. We believe the ban should extend not just to hospitals, care homes and student accommodation, but to all buildings that house vulnerable people, such as specialised housing. ‘We look forward to the call

for evidence on the full technical review of ADB. We will also be calling for improvements to sprinkler requirements, firefighting access and other provisions needed to help make communities safer, such as technical requirements for fire hydrants.’ LABC chief executive Paul Everall

stated: ‘We believe the Secretary of State’s decision to amend the approved documents to ban combustible cladding and to enforce cladding removal in private blocks will give reassurance to


communities concerned about fire safety. Owners of private residential blocks needing remediation work now have the clarity they need on the use of non-combustible systems and products to get on with the job. ‘And our colleagues in local authority housing teams will have additional powers and resources to deal with those private building owners who aren’t moving fast enough on necessary remediation work. LABC will support all professionals and building owners to deliver fire safety strategies and safer buildings. We look forward to further announcements implementing all 53 of the Hackitt Review’s recommendations to create the systemic change Dame Judith and the vast majority of the industry want to see.’ The Fire Brigades Union stated that

despite focusing on ACM, ‘evidence suggests that the government may be grossly underestimating’ the number of buildings clad in combustible materials. General secretary Matt Wrack said: ‘The focus on only privately- owned buildings is misguided – the true scale of the problem is much bigger. Buildings up and down the country are unsafe – the government must address it as a whole, rather than providing a sticking plaster. ‘Not only has the government

taken too long to act, but their plans do not go far enough. We are clear that, to prevent another tragedy from occurring, all combustible cladding must urgently be replaced on all buildings, irrespective of height. This would require a major national programme to assess and prioritise the scale of the risk and adopt interim safety measures which residents, other building users and firefighters could have confidence in. ‘Combustible cladding must be

avoided at all costs. The government must listen to the experts and ensure a full and proper review of materials and the effects of fire toxicity. We are calling for a blanket ban on all combustible materials which do not meet A1 classification, or are deemed to be of ‘‘limited combustibility’’ but are ultimately still flammable.’

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