Parliamentary housing committee calls for more prescription in building regulations

Clive Betts MP, chair of the housing, communities and local government committee, has issued a new call for a more prescriptive approach towards fire safety building regulations after the government confirmed that material used on the outside of cladding in high-rise buildings may be combustible.

A letter from housing minister Dominic Raab MP in response to a further letter from Betts confirmed that current guidance “does allow that the surface of external walls at a height of more than 18 metres may meet a less onerous requirement than that which would meet the definition of ‘limited combustibility’”.

In response, Betts said: “With the minister now clarifying the regulations and confirming that combustible materials can be used in the cladding system of high-rises, it is more important than ever that Dame Judith Hackitt’s review of building regulations listens to the committee and concludes that a degree of prescription is required to improve the safety of high-rise buildings.”

The housing, communities and local government committee has previously written to Dame Judith to express concerns that her final report might focus too much on a risk-based rather than prescriptive approach to building regulations and has already corresponded with the Minister on the use of combustible materials in cladding systems. 

On 30 April, Betts also wrote to secretary of state James Brokenshire to call for a ban on the use of desktop studies in the safety assessment of materials used in the cladding of high-rise buildings. The letter said the use of desktop studies was ‘clearly dangerous’ and called for them to be prohibited for so long as combustible materials are permitted to be used in the cladding of high-rise buildings.

"We are concerned that the over-use of desktop studies may be a contributory factor to a weaker, less stringent regulatory regime and increases the likelihood of dangerous materials being used on high-rise residential buildings," the letter said.


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