The continuing Government response to the Grenfell Fire disaster
In March 2020, the Home Office introduced a new bill to improve fire safety in buildings in England and Wales. The proposed Fire Safety Bill will amend the Fire Safety Order 2005 to clarify that the responsible person or duty-holder for multi-occupied, residential buildings must manage and reduce the risk of fire for:
• the structure and external walls of the building, including cladding, balconies and windows
• entrance doors to individual flats that open into common parts.
According to the government, this clarification aims to empower fire and rescue services to take enforcement action and hold building owners to account if they are not compliant.
Following the Grenfell Fire in 2017 the Government have taken a number of steps around fire safety, and this Bill forms part of that response. It is part of a series of changes by the Government to both fire safety and building safety more generally, with further primary and secondary legislation to follow. The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 consolidated a number of different pieces of fire legislation. It applies to all non-domestic premises, including communal areas of residential buildings with multiple homes. The Order designates those in control of premises as the responsible person for fire safety and they have a duty to undertake assessments and manage risks.
The Bill clarifies that:
• for any building containing two or more sets of domestic premises the Order applies to the building’s structure and external walls and any common parts, including the front doors of residential parts Legislation and Guidance Update – October 2020
• external walls in the order include “doors or windows in those walls” and “anything attached to the exterior of those walls (including balconies).” These amendments are expected to provide for increased enforcement action in these areas, particularly where remediation of aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding is not taking place.
The Bill also provides ministers with a regulation making power to amend the type of buildings the order applies to in the future. This Bill extends and applies to England and Wales. Second Reading of the Bill took place on 29 April 2020. Committee Stage took place on 25 June where the Bill passed without amendment. Three new clauses were negatived on division. Remaining stages of the Bill were scheduled for 7 September 2020. The Fire Safety Bill cleared the Commons and will now be debated in the House of Lords.