Calls for fire safety to be at the heart of building design

Date published: 06 December 2017

A ban on flammable cladding systems and an overhaul of the planning system to put fire safety at the heart of building design and construction is being called for.

The demands form part of Greater Manchester’s evidence submission to the independent review of building regulations and fire safety, set up by the Government following the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

Under current legislation, the fire and rescue service is not a statutory consultee for planning applications, an oversight that local fire chiefs believe could be rectified to ensure the safety of buildings, residents, and firefighters are not put at risk.

Greater Manchester’s High Rise Taskforce – set up by Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham – is recommending the planning process is changed to give local fire and rescue services statutory consultee status for certain types of development, such as large scale projects. This will mean that issues around water pressure and layout, which can affect firefighters’ ability to tackle a building fire, and other factors that will impact fire safety will be addressed early on in the design and construction of a building.

Evidence submitted to the review highlights local concerns and conflicts in existing legislation and recommends a number of improvements and changes, including: 

  • The use of flammable materials in cladding systems should be banned. 
  • A national feasibility study should be undertaken into the retrofitting of sprinkler systems in high rise buildings, and other higher risk residential premises, which undergo major refurbishments.
  • The regulatory regime needs to be changed to ensure that a minimum standard of firefighter safety is required within building design. 
  • The relationship between the Fire Safety Order and other pieces of legislation and the responsibilities of different regulators needs to be more clearly defined and guidance produced. 
  • Building regulations should be reviewed to reflect modern building methods and should consider and promote the fire resilience of a building. 
  • There needs to be a major review into the competency of people who are considered ‘responsible persons’ under fire safety legislation along with the introduction of mandatory registration and a complaints procedure. 

The High Rise Taskforce also calls for a review of public sector budgets, saying that cuts to the fire and rescue service and local authorities have impacted on the numbers of specialist staff available to ensure compliance with fire safety regulations.

The High Rise Taskforce was set up by Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham following the Grenfell Tower tragedy to provide fire safety reassurance to thousands of local residents living in high rises across the city-region. The taskforce includes landlords of tower blocks across the city region in both private and public ownership, GMFRS, as well as representatives from every local authority in Greater Manchester and other specialist officers who can offer support to ensure every high rise is safe.

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