Thousands of people living in tower blocks are in danger as the building industry ‘games the system’ to avoid fire safety measures brought about in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire.
Developers are ‘bending the rules’ and constructing hundreds of new high rises that just about avoid the intricate fire safety measures, said London Fire Brigade Deputy Commissioner Paul Jennings
Speaking to BBC Newsnight, he said the brigade was seeing examples that the industry may be ‘gaming the system’.
“So they’re looking to reach the minimum standard or they’ll look at ways if the guidance doesn’t specifically say they can’t do something, then they will bend those rules accordingly,” he explained.
He continued: “We have got examples where we think people are deliberately designing and building their buildings below that 18-metre, six-floor threshold, because they know if they reach that threshold they would have to put advanced and more intricate fire safety measures in.”
Mr Jennings told Newsnight that this wasn’t acceptable.
“It’s not the cultural change that we all want to see within this built environment,” he said.
When asked how many buildings he thought are being built that the fire brigade was concerned about, Mr Jennings said ‘hundreds and hundreds if not thousands of buildings’.
He elaborated: “We’re seeing around 60 per cent of the building consultations that come into the fire engineering team and others are ones where we are going back with concerns.”
The assistant general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, Andy Dark, said in response that they have been ‘increasingly concerned with the growing evidence suggesting that the Westminster government, landlords and the construction industry are trying to avoid taking responsibility’.
He said: “It comes as no surprise that players within the building sector are ‘gaming the system’ to avoid compliance with the extremely limited improvements in the building regulations.
“Ministers should listen to fire professionals and provide the regulations and funding necessary to solve this crisis.
“The Prime Minister should be taking personal charge of introducing immediate action and introduce watertight legislation that prevents dodges and loopholes like this being possible.
“Hand-wringing and mealy-mouthed words from the government are worthless.
“It’s actions that matter.”
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The Housebuilders Federation said that developers meet the building regulations set by the government ‘without exception’.
They said: “Standards today are considerably more exacting than previous iterations.
“Building regulations differ depending on the type of building but all have residents’ safety at their core.”
The government said: “The safety and well-being of residents is our priority and the Building Safety bill will strengthen oversight and protections for everyone in high rise buildings.
“All new buildings of any height must meet fire safety requirements and we have already banned the use of all combustible materials on external walls of new residential buildings over 18 metres.”
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