Safety experts demand building regulations changes after leaked Grenfell report

A group of fire safety experts and building industry bodies have urged the Government to introduce immediate changes in safety standards without waiting for the conclusion of the Grenfell Fire inquiry.

In an open letter, the called for an immediate change in the law requiring all high-rise and high-risk buildings be fitted with sprinklers and that only non-combustible cladding and insulation be installed.

They further demanded all new buildings be required have alternative escape routes.

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

The letter was prompted by an interim report from the ongoing Grenfell investigation leaked to the press last weak that revealed a myriad of safety failings following refurbishments between 2014 and 2016.

Among the shortcomings were the fact the cladding and insulation material was highly combustible, the windows badly fitted, front doors lacked door closers, the building had no sprinklers, escape routes were too narrow and the building was almost impossible for firefighters to access effectively.

Signatories to the letter included architect George Clarke and Ronnie King OBE, of the all party parliamentary Fire Safety and Rescue Group, along with the Mineral Wool Manufacturers Association (MIMA) and several others.

Ten months after 71 people lost their lives in the Grenfell Tower inferno, they said they were "deeply concerned" that so little has been done to prevent a similar disaster.

The letter read: "The official inquiries and investigations will run their course, but we must not wait.

"We believe these common-sense measures will help protect people's lives and the buildings in which they live, work, learn and recover."

A quick word about Grenfell, fire door self-closers and RBKC pic.twitter.com/eUpC1Pd5pk

-- Peter Apps (@PeteApps) April 16, 2018

Buildings the group deemed "high risk" included schools, hospitals, care homes, sheltered housing and residential blocks.

Mr Clarke said: "The rules for how we build safe homes, offices, schools and hospitals have for many years been far too open to interpretation.

"This has led to poor design decisions that have compromised fire safety and put lives at risk.

"What we are arguing for could be implemented tomorrow, would be extremely effective in making buildings safer, and help prevent a tragedy such as Grenfell ever happening again."

Alan Brinson, of the European Fire Sprinkler Network, said: "Sprinklers are highly effective fire safety systems. They are not expensive and have been fitted in many existing buildings."

He added: "Wales already requires sprinklers in all new housing and in Scotland there is a proposal to require them in more buildings. All eyes are now on England."

Dame Judith Hackitt, former Chair of the UK Health and Safety Executive, has been tasked with conducting an independent review into the effectiveness of current building and fire safety regulations.

She is due to publish her report this spring.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: "We will respond swiftly to Dame Hackitt's independent report on building regulations and fire safety, which is due to be published shortly.

"It would be inappropriate to pre-empt the findings of her review."

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