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A Government announcement on further steps to reform the building safety system has been welcomed by London Fire Brigade, but senior firefighters also have concerns it has not gone far enough.
The Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick MP announced new measures including mandatory sprinkler systems in all new high-rise blocks of flats of 11 metres and above – something the Brigade has been campaigning on for more than 10 years.
Mandatory consistent way-finding signage in all new buildings has also been announced. These are both changes that the Brigade called for as part of its response to the Government’s Building a Safer Future consultation.
The announcement today also included information on which buildings will be in scope for the new Building Safety Regulator’s more stringent regime for buildings during their design, construction, occupation and refurbishment.
There is huge disappointment this will only apply to buildings of 18 metres or more than six storeys, meaning buildings of six storeys which fall below 18 metres, and could be deliberately constructed to avoid this threshold, in order to circumvent measures that could help to keep people safe in their homes.
The Brigade’s Assistant Commissioner for Fire Safety, Dan Daly, said: “We welcome much of this announcement as a huge step in the right direction.
“We submitted a comprehensive response to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s consultation on sprinklers and other fire safety measures in new high-rise blocks of flats and we are pleased they have taken many of our comments on board.
“Sprinklers provide much needed time when a fire breaks out and are a simple way to save more lives and reduce the risks to firefighters.
“In terms of wayfinding signage, we have stressed that any sign which indicates to firefighters the floor level or hazards must be readable and understandable at all times and in all situations – and we are pleased the Government has listened and made this compulsory.”
“We are disappointed that the announcement about buildings which will be subject to the most stringent regulatory regime hasn’t incorporated buildings below 18 metres from the outset. It’s a huge missed opportunity to address wider risk, especially in existing building stock, where there are buildings that were built just below the 18m mark to avoid more stringent fire safety measures.
"Effectively those that sought to ‘game’ the previous system are not captured by these changes.”
The Brigade also welcomes the appointment of Stephen Greenhalgh as the new joint Lords Minister across the MHCLG and the Home Office to focus on building safety.
Read the Government’s announcement in full here.