Hackitt’s ‘strange’ review will not change fire safety, says lawyer

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“Saying to the industry to sort it out is not enough,” said Kathryn Gilbertson, partner, at Greenwoods GRM LLP, who told delegates she was disappointed in Judith Hackitt’s recent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety.

Several recommendations were ‘strange’ she said, including the requirement for a person to be a dutyholder for the lifetime of the building. “Who’s going to take on that role? Do you really want to take it on?” she asked in her speech at the British Safety Council's annual conference held last week.

Ultimately, to prevent another Grenfell tragedy we need an Act of Parliament: “This is not something that can be dealt with by a set of regulations."

Nonetheless, in her needle-sharp reading of the review, she identified some good ideas, such as the requirement for each new build property to have a digital record: “You can go into that record and see the proposal and a full fire and emergency plan, so on handover you know it’s completely safe.”

She also liked Hackitt’s suggestion to require each building to have a contact number and name of someone based in the UK. “At the moment lots of properties are owned in Guernsey, or a trust somewhere. [In this way] you get hold of them easily, and that’s really quite sneaky, I like it.”

Worried: Kathryn Gilbertson at the British Safety Council annual conference

But, ultimately, she said the review, and the government’s response to it, has fallen short of expectations. Not only has it omitted all tall buildings from the scope of the combustible cladding ban, but it is still legal to buy the flammable cladding that killed the residents of Grenfell Tower.

She added that the HSE’s proposal to set up a Joint Competent Authority was troubling. “HSE don’t really do fire safety, it strikes me as a difficult one to manage. Will [they] assess fire safety, will they inspect?”

“There’s lots of things in here that aren’t quite right and I’m worried about interested parties diluting the recommendations.”

Judith Hackitt's independent review of building regulations and fire safety here


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