Published On: Wed, Jan 3rd, 2018

Damning conclusions in interim review of Grenfell Tower fire

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Commenting on the interim review into building regulations following the Grenfell Tower fire Building a Safer Future, housing law expert Professor Helen Carr of Kent Law School, says it ‘reaches  damning conclusions about the failures of the current system for regulation health and safety in high rise blocks.

‘This is perhaps no surprise – every commentator on the Grenfell Tower tragedy has observed that building regulations are complex and unclear.  What is perhaps surprising is the force with which Dame Judith Hackitt expresses her views.

‘She points out that the “whole system of regulation … is not fit for purpose, leaving room for those who want to take shortcuts to do so.”  What Dame Hackitt wants to achieve is a cultural change – a shift from “doing the minimum required for compliance, to one of taking ownership and responsibility for delivering a safe system throughout the life cycle of a building”.

‘She rejects any notion of a quick technical fix to the problem. Instead there needs to be a full overhaul of the regulatory system to address the wide-ranging issues outlined.

‘What is particularly impressive about the report is that it focuses on residents.  The suggestion is that the current regulatory system serves the interests of a multiplicity of stakeholders, from government to industry, but fails to put the health and safety of the residents of buildings at the heart of the process.

‘This needs to change. She proposes to empower residents, by providing a quick route to an external regulatory body to address concerns about fire safety in a building.  This has to be right. Not only are those living in a building best placed to voice concerns about the health and safety of their homes, it has also been a shocking feature of the Grenfell tragedy that so many complaints and concerns were ignored.

The report echoes the findings of the report on housing law  ‘Closing the Gaps: Health and Safety in the Home’ commissioned by Shelter following the Grenfell Tower fire and authored by myself, , Dr Ed Kirton-Darling of Kent Law School and Professor Dave Cowan and Ed Burtonshaw-Gunn of the University of Bristol.

‘Just like the review of the regulatory structure, it found that housing law is not fit for purpose and ignores the concerns of residents. And, once more, technical fixes are not sufficient.  We also recommended a cultural shift so that those responsible for the health and safety of occupiers become pro-active in fulfilling those responsibilities.

‘The evidence is piling up.  What needs to be done is extensive and serious. The government needs to act to implement the systemic changes needed to ensure health and safety in the home.’

Professor Helen Carr, of Kent Law School, is an expert in the fields of housing, social welfare and public law.  She co-authored a report ‘Reconciling owning and renting in shared ownership housing: Moving forward’ in 2015 that examined the practices of shared ownership in the UK.

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