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Building Safety Act marks major step forward, but work to be done

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The government’s Building Safety Bill has become law, after receiving Royal Assent on 28 April.


The landmark law establishes the Building Safety Regulator (BSR) at the Health and Safety Executive, which will provide oversight of the new system with powers of enforcement and tougher sanctions against builders and product manufacturers who risk resident safety.

The Act creates powers to introduce new design and construction requirements that apply to high-rise residential buildings, hospitals, and care homes of at least 18 metres or at least seven storeys.

Lord Stephen Greenhalgh, the minister for building safety, hailed these as the “biggest changes in building safety legislation in our history.”

The changes will simplify what Judith Hackitt called in her independent review a ‘complex and inconsistent’ system.

“We don’t want our 72 to be remembered for what happened, but for what changed": Karim Mussilhy, vice-chair of Grenfell United. Photograph: iStock

They will also bring more accountability. Measures will ensure there are clearly identified people responsible for safety during the design, build and occupation of a high-rise residential building. Residents will also have more powers to hold builders and developers to account.  

It is not perfect. Gone is the building safety manager role and instead new duties will fall to landlords and building owners to manage risks with the costs passed onto leaseholders through a service charge. Work will have to be done to produce clarity and establish how the dutyholder will upskill, said Adrian Mansbridge, Legal Director at Addleshaw Goddard LLP. He commented: “This late change and prolonged uncertainty are not helpful for a sector already facing seismic regulatory changes.”

Although the bill is now law, most of the provisions will not legally come into effect for a year to 18 months, as secondary legislation is developed.

Commenting, CEO Mike Robinson said: “Five years since 72 people tragically lost their lives in the fire at Grenfell Tower, the enshrining of the Building Safety Bill into law marks a major step forward and we welcome the formation of a new Building Safety Regulator housed at the Health and Safety Executive.

“It will be important that this new body is given the funding, staff and powers it needs to carry out its duties, and there is much more detail to be worked through in the secondary legislation that will put flesh on the bones of the new regime.”

He added: “In the past few years, British Safety Council has consistently called on the Government to ensure leaseholders don’t bear the costs of replacing combustible cladding on their homes and, while progress has been made in setting up a new fund, there is more to be done to ensure all those responsible do now contribute and that the broken regulatory system is fixed to avoid anything like this happening ever again.”

The Building Safety Act has been a long road. It has been created out of enormous and systematic failures which have been revealed in the Grenfell Inquiry, which is still playing out.

Its successes are due in no small part to the campaigning efforts of those including Grenfell United, formed following the terrible fire in June 2017.

Writing for Politics Home, Karim Mussilhy, vice-chair of Grenfell United who lost a family member in the fire, said: “We don’t want our 72 to be remembered for what happened, but for what changed. For five years we’ve been forced to fight; if we hadn’t, we’d be much further from justice and accountability.”

Government’s Building Safety Bill factsheets, here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/building-safety-bill-factsheets

Read the full 218-page Bill here: https://bills.parliament.uk/bills/3021

Transition plan explained here: https://bit.ly/385GSha

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