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Out-Law News 2 min. read

Building Safety Bill headlines new UK building safety initiatives

The UK government has confirmed plans to introduce a Building Safety Bill to the UK parliament, while accelerating an approval system for new residential developments.

The Building Safety Bill was published in draft form last year, but it was confirmed in the Queen’s Speech on Tuesday 11 May that it would now be brought forward. The Bill will introduce a new regulatory regime, overseen by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), to enhance the fire and structural safety of new and existing residential buildings.

The legislation will also introduce a system of ‘gateways’ for HSE approval before residential development can proceed. Although the new regime is not expected to enter into force until 2023, the government announced that gateway one would be introduced from 1 August 2021 by way of amendments to the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (England) Order 2015 (as amended), and an associated instrument.
Gateway one relates to obtaining planning permission for relevant buildings. Under the new rules HSE will become a statutory consultee on relevant planning applications. A fire statement will need to be submitted with an application including: information about fire service access and water availability; detail of the fire strategy for the building; details to demonstrate whether the building has an external wall system which will need external sign off; and details of the evacuation strategy and fire suppression systems.

These requirements go beyond the recommendations made by Dame Judith Hackitt in her 2018 independent review of building regulations and fire safety.

“The introduction of Gateway 1 ahead of the rest of the building safety regime is a recognition of the time it takes to get a development from concept stage to occupation,” said residential development expert Natalie Harris of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Outlaw.

“The new requirements will force developers to take steps now to ensure that fire and structural safety are at the heart of the building’s design. Time is tight to ensure that fire statements are in place for planning applications submitted after 1 August,” Harris said.

Further detail is still awaited in relation to the wider regime to be implemented by the Building Safety Bill.

Building safety law expert Katherine Metcalfe of Pinsent Masons said: “Significant amendment to the draft published last year will be required to address the issues raised during pre-legislative scrutiny, and it will be interesting to see the extent to which these have been addressed when the Bill is introduced to parliament. Industry will be looking for the detail of the proposals, which is sorely needed to prepare for the new regime.”

Separately, the Fire Safety Act 2021 has received Royal Assent. The legislation had its first reading in March 2020 and is aimed at reducing the risk of fire through unsafe cladding and entrance doors, by clarifying that the responsible person for the building should assess and mitigate the fire safety risk associated with these external and communal parts of multi-occupied residential buildings.

“The Fire Safety Act makes it clear that external wall systems, balconies and flat entrance doors fall within the scope of fire safety legislation. The responsible person for the building needs to update their fire risk assessment to ensure that safety risks and implement a fire safety management system to ensure that these aspects of the building are maintained in a safe condition. Enforcement action by fire and rescue services can be anticipated if they fail to do so,” Metcalfe said.

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