Government to appoint chief inspector of buildings in legislation shake-up

New laws being proposed by the government are set to usher in the most comprehensive overhaul in building regulations for 40 years.

Ministers will appoint the UK’s first chief inspector of buildings in a raft of reforms prompted by the Grenfell Tower disaster and to address the fact that thousands of other high-rise buildings across the country are currently in breach of fire safety regulations.

The chief inspector role will head up a national regulator of building safety who will also oversee a system that will designate an “accountable person” for each high-rise building. The accountable person will also have to respond to any residents’ complaints that may be made about safety. Many residents at Grenfell Tower said that their fears about safety were ignored by their landlords before the fire which took place on 14 June 2017, killing 72 people.

The national regulator of building safety will introduce new complaints handling requirements “to make sure effective action is taken where concerns are raised”. The proposals are outlined in a new Building Safety bill due to be published by the government today which will “ensure that high-rise buildings and the people who live in them are being kept safe and will have new powers to raise and enforce higher standards of safety and performance across all buildings,” said a spokesperson for the Department of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

A key role of the new regulator will be to improve the competence of people responsible for managing and overseeing building work and the government hopes that the bill and the regulator’s wide powers will prevent a disaster like Grenfell ever happening again. Robert Jenrick, the housing minister, commented: “I am 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.”

Local Authority Building Control (LABC) which represents all local authority building control teams in England and Wales, welcomed the bill.  Lorna Stimpson, LABC chief executive said: “I welcome the publication of the bill in draft form today, but there is still much to do to get the details right. LABC will be working across the industry to make sure the bill when it finalised does all the things it needs to do to make our buildings safer - but the devil will be in the detail.

“So far what we know is the HSE will become the Building Safety Regulator with far reaching powers to appoint building control inspectors, for higher risk building work. And all building control practitioners will need to be licensed and have to prove their competence to practice. New defined standards and processes with legal responsibilities for those commissioning and managing buildings will be introduced and for the first time, local authorities and individual building control inspectors will be responsible and legally liable for their decisions.

“Local government across England needs to understand these changes and how they will affect not only their building control teams but their responsibilities more generally. Please don’t think because there are no high-rise tower blocks in your area it won’t affect you. It will. The impact of these changes on all English local authorities will be huge, with building control teams needing investment and additional learning so they can evidence their resourcing, competence, standards and resilience."

Judith Hackitt, whose official review of building safety after the Grenfell fire has led to the new legislative measures has given her backing to the bill, saying: “It meets the ambitions and recommendations set out in my review.”

The first draft of the bill will now be examined in detail by a parliamentary select committee before a the final version is drawn up by the government and laid before MPs in the autumn.

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