Government publishes ‘milestone’ Building Safety Bill

The government has published a draft of its ‘milestone’ Building Safety Bill which aims to deliver the biggest changes to building safety for almost 40 years.

The proposals, drawn up in consultation with residents, make major changes to building safety regulations in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster, with residents’ safety given greater emphasis in the new system.

The Bill will bring into force a new set of rules that apply for buildings of 18 metres or more, or taller than six stories, from design to occupation.

The housing secretary Robert Jenrick MP called the bill ‘a significant milestone on our journey to fundamentally improving building safety and delivering real change that will keep people safer in their homes’.

Jenrick said: “I remain committed to making sure we get this right, which is why I will be publishing the draft Bill for scrutiny and improvement before it is introduced in Parliament.

“I am also calling on the industry to actively prepare for these changes now. It is vital that the sector moves in step with us, to provide confidence and reassurance to residents that their safety is firmly at the heart of everything we do.”

The draft Bill, published by the government yesterday, gives people living in high rise buildings more powers to challenge inaction from building owners, along with access to better safety information about their building and a faster, more effective complaints process.

A new Building Safety Regulator is already being set up within the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) which will have the powers to hold building owners to account under the new rules.

Also included in the draft Bill is a ‘building safety charge’ that gives leaseholders more clarity around the costs of maintaining a safe building, while limiting the costs that can be re-charged to them.

The draft Bill also outlines new powers to better regulate construction materials and products to make sure they are safe for use.

The government has stressed that the Bill will continue to develop as it obtains further evidence to ensure that residents’ safety remains top priority.

The Bill’s publication came as the government also set out proposals yesterday to implement some of the the recommendations from the first phase of the Grenfell Tower enquiry.

The consultation will compliment the draft Bill by looking at strengthening fire safety in all regulated buildings in England, improving the safety of residents in buildings of all heights.

The building safety minister Lord Greenhalgh said: “As a government we are determined to learn the lessons from that fateful night at Grenfell Tower and ensure that a tragedy like this does not happen again.

“Consulting on key recommendations from the Inquiry and wider changes to fire safety regulation will give those affected the opportunity to make their voices heard and help us implement lasting, significant change.”

Dame Judith Hackitt, author of the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety commissioned after the Grenfell Tower fire, welcomed the new Bill, calling it an ‘important milestone’ in delivering building safety reform.

Dame Hackitt said: “Industry must be in no doubt that it is not enough to wait for the Bill to become law before they implement changes; we expect them to start taking action now.”

Critics of the new Building Safety Bill say the new ‘building safety charge’ will add to leaseholders’ costs and prevent them from being able to sell their homes.

From 31 July, leaseholders can also submit full applications for the £1 billion Building Safety Fund, which aims to cover the costs of removing unsafe non-ACM cladding from buildings.

As of 18 July, the government said that it has processed 747 registration forms from leaseholders for the Fund since it opened on 1 June.

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