Our UK Construction team prepares a monthly summary of new and proposed legislation for Construction Law. A list of the legislation and consultations on which we commented in December 2019 is set out below, as well as our commentary on the Phase 1 report of the public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire. 

Click on the title below for a link to the pdf version as published by Construction Law on 3 December 2019.

New and proposed legislation: State of play table 245

The Queen's Speech: Future parliamentary business?

Payment: Retention bill dropped

Environment: The Environment Bill 

Building regulations – housebuilding: The green revolution – new standards for new-build homes

Slavery: Latest statistics

Fire safety: Responses to the Grenfell Tower fire

VAT: EU proposals for changes to VAT – and the effect of Brexit

Grenfell Tower Inquiry phase 1 recommendations 

The public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire, chaired by Sir Martin Moore-Bick, published its Phase 1 report on 30 October 2019. It describes the fire and sets out conclusions on its origin and development, an analysis of the response of the London Fire Brigade (LFB) and emergency services, and a summary of tributes to loved ones from family and friends. Key findings include:

  • the principal reason the flames spread so rapidly was the presence of the aluminium composite material (ACM) rainscreen panels with polyethylene cores, which acted as a source of fuel. The panels melted and dripped down, causing fires lower down the building, which then travelled back up. Polyisocyanurate (PIR) and phenolic foam insulation boards behind the ACM panels contributed to the rate and extent of vertical flame spread; and
  • there was "compelling evidence that the external walls of the building failed to comply with Requirement B4(1) of Schedule 1 to the Building Regulations 2010, in that they did not adequately resist the spread of fire having regard to the height, use and position of the building. On the contrary, they actively promoted it".

Recommendations to improve fire safety include: speeding up the process of replacing dangerous cladding; producing/amending guidelines both on emergency calls and on how the LFB and other fire and rescue services respond to major disasters; training fire brigades on high-rise inspections and how to handle façade fires; ensuring rescue services have good compatible communication systems (both internally and with other services); introducing legislation to require more action by building owners and managers relating to internal inspections (including inspections of the lifts); and providing up-to-date building plans and evacuation procedures to the rescue services.

These recommendations will come as small comfort to those who lost family, friends and their homes in the fire. They do, however, make clear that change needs to be implemented – and swiftly – to avoid similar tragedies in the future. 

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