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Independent inquiry: Grenfell exposed a ‘systemic failure’ of building regulation

The government’s decision to launch an independent review of building regulations after tests showed that at least 82 residential high-rises use a combination of insulation and cladding that does not meet fire safety standards, was absolutely the right thing to do.

The tests, which were ordered following the Grenfell Tower tragedy, involved a large-scale fire test with the same combination of aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding and insulation used on the tower block in north Kensington.

Communities secretary, Sajid Javid, said: “This independent review will ensure we can swiftly make any necessary improvements.”

Details of the test, carried out by the Building Research Establishment, revealed that flames spread to the top of the simulated cladding wall in eight minutes and at peak temperatures of more than 800C.

Responding to the results of the latest fire safety tests on systems of cladding and insulation and an independent review of building regulations, Lord Porter, chairman of the Local Government Association, acknowledged that the affected buildings are all owned by housing associations, private and other landlords, and so it is important that everybody pays attention to actions being taken.

He said: “Councils will continue to do whatever it takes to ensure our residents are all safe in their homes. All of the 16 councils which own blocks with different combinations of ACM cladding and insulation on them have already carried out fire safety checks, implemented precautionary measures where necessary and begun reviewing or replacing cladding materials on those blocks.

He added: “It is clear that the tragedy at Grenfell Tower has exposed a systemic failure of the current system of building regulation. With test fails on buildings owned by a range of landlords across the country, we are pleased the government has accepted our call to begin an urgent and immediate review of building regulations. Local government must play a central role in this review from the outset.

“We also continue to call on the Building Research Establishment and the industry to release results of previous safety tests, including desktop studies. Everything must be out in the open and this needs to happen as soon as possible.”

John Healey, the shadow secretary of housing, criticised the government’s testing programme for being confused and too slow.

“It has taken more than six weeks since the Grenfell Tower fire for the government to release test results of just 82 of the 4,000 tower blocks around the country,” he said. “Landlords still can’t get other types of cladding tested and government ministers still can’t say how many high-rise blocks are unsafe.” 

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