Following the Grenfell Tower fire, and Dame Judith Hackitt’s subsequent review, there have been many calls for building reform, and the Building Safety Bill could secure just that.

 

What is the Building Safety Bill?

As stated in The Queen’s Speech at the end of 2019, the proposed Building Safety Bill puts ‘in place new and enhanced regulatory regimes for building safety and construction products, and ensure residents have a stronger voice in the system.’

This will mean a strengthening of the regulatory system for building safety in England, paying particular attention to high-rise residential and mixed-use buildings. It also encourages a culture of accountability and responsibility amongst developers, property managers, and residents.

The main elements will be:

  1. An enhanced safety framework for high-rise residential buildings, taking forward the recommendations from Dame Judith Hackitt’s independent review of building safety, and in some areas going further by:
  • Providing clearer accountability and stronger duties for those responsible for the safety of high-rise buildings throughout the building’s design, construction and occupation, with clear competence requirements to maintain high standards.
  • Giving residents a stronger voice in the system, ensuring their concerns are never ignored and they fully understand how they can contribute to maintaining safety in their buildings.
  • Strengthening enforcement and sanctions to deter non-compliance with the new regime, hold the right people to account when mistakes are made and ensure they are not repeated.
  • Developing a new, stronger and clearer framework to provide national oversight of construction products, to ensure all products meet high-performance standards.
  • Developing a new system to oversee the whole built environment, with local enforcement agencies and national regulators working together to ensure that the safety of all buildings is improved.
  1. Legislation to require developers of new build homes to belong to a New Homes Ombudsman.

 

The government has also revealed that it is creating a new, national Building Safety Regulator in line with the Health and Safety Executive.

Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick, said in The House of Commons:

 

“The government is bringing about the biggest change in building safety for a generation.”

“This new regime will put residents’ safety at its heart, and follows the announcement of the unprecedented £1bn fund for removing unsafe cladding from high-rise buildings in the budget.”

 

What Does This Mean for Developers?

Most of the industry understands why the building safety reforms are being introduced and the overall benefits to those who will live in the properties. However, this will have an affect on those building and refurbishing these kinds of buildings.

If implemented, there could be a number of new responsibilities for developers and investors, as well as a lot more paperwork and more frequent assessment. As government documents reveal, this ‘regime will place greater responsibility on those designing and constructing buildings to explain how they are managing safety risks and demonstrating to the (Building Safety) regulator that the building is safe to be occupied.’

Alongside the proposed Fire Safety Bill, this could involve additional safety measures, such as sprinklers, at an estimated cost of £3,000 a unit – a fee which many in the industry are suggesting either the government supports or is passed on to the future buyer.

We predict more information and guidance will be revealed about these building safety measures with due course, however, it does raise questions about finance. Our property development finance brokers will be staying abreast of the issue, and we will share any future updates on this blog.