The government has published a Fire Safety Bill placing a legal requirement on residential building owners to inspect cladding and fire doors.
The bill, introduced to parliament by the Home Office in March, amends the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 to “clarify” that the duty holder for blocks of flats must “manage and reduce the risk of fire” posed by building structure, external wall systems and entrance doors.
Fire services would therefore be able to take enforcement action against building owners failing to tackle unsafe cladding, balconies, windows and flat front doors.
Ministers had promised these measures in response to the Grenfell Tower Inquiry’s phase one report, published in October.
The new bill – which will apply in England and Wales if passed – provides the foundation for implementing recommendations from the inquiry, the Home Office said.
However, it does not include provisions for any of the measures called for by inquiry chair Sir Martin Moore-Bick, including evacuation plans for all high rises and three-monthly fire door inspections.
Housing secretary Robert Jenrick promised in January that a Fire Safety Bill implementing the inquiry’s recommendations would come forward “very swiftly”.
A government source previously told Inside Housing that ministers will legislate for all Sir Martin’s recommendations, including the stretching fire door requirement.
Security minister and former housing secretary James Brokenshire said: “We remain committed to implementing the recommendations made following phase one of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, and the government has already made major reforms to building safety.
“Today’s bill will help bring about meaningful change to improving building safety.”
The bill will also give the housing secretary powers to amend the list of building types subject to the Fire Safety Order.
Ministers have also promised to publish a larger Building Safety Bill before the summer recess, which will include legislation for a new building safety regulator.
Lord Gary Porter, building safety spokesperson for the Local Government Association and leader of South Holland District Council, said: “This bill is an important step in the right direction.
“While councils are leading local efforts to support communities through the coronavirus crisis, the risk to residents in buildings with dangerous cladding systems remains.
“This bill is a positive step but needs to be backed up by further effective powers and sanctions, which we have been promised in the forthcoming Building Safety Bill, and sufficient funding to carry out the necessary inspections and enforcement activity.”
Roy Wilsher, chair of the National Fire Chiefs Council, said the proposed changes “should contribute to the public feeling safer in their homes”.
Gary Strong, global building standards director at the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, said: “RICS have said for some time the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 needed clarifying, and building owners and their agents will now have the information needed – specifically in relation to external walls, balconies and front doors which open onto internal common areas – to better safeguard the people living in their buildings.”
The Home Office has also published a summary of responses to its call for evidence on the Fire Safety Order, with a consultation set to be held later this year on next steps.
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