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Safety Rules for High Rises “Not Fit For Purpose”

Safety Rules for High Rises “Not Fit For Purpose”

The system for building and managing high-rise residential blocks in the UK is “not fit for purpose,” according to Dame Judith Hackitt’s report on the Grenfell Tower fire, which features calls to ensure that costs are not prioritised over residents’ safety.

The interim report found: current regulations and guidance are too complex and unclear; compliance, enforcement and sanctions processes are too weak; and that the clarity of responsibilities is poor.

Dame Judith said:

“Unless we achieve that culture change where people are doing things because we believe and we are all committed to making buildings safer rather than simply doing things at least cost and so on, those are some of the changes in culture that need to drive this, rather than newer and simpler regulations.”

Grenfell victims’ lawyers could quiz witnesses directly

Lawyers representing victims of the tragedy could be allowed to question witnesses directly, according to Sir Martin Moore-Bick, the head of the inquiry into the fire, who has said he will decide on a case-by-case basis whether legal representatives of families can put questions directly and not through the inquiry’s counsel.

In his first major decisions on submissions to the inquiry, the retired Court of Appeal judge also said it would not be “unfair at this stage” to ask commercial and governmental bodies to describe the part they played in the maintenance and refurbishment of the tower in the five years before the fire.

Police investigating corporate manslaughter offences at Grenfell

Misconduct in public office, fire safety legislation breaches, criminal offences of manslaughter and corporate manslaughter are all being considered by the police investigation into the fire, according to Jeremy Johnson QC, for the Metropolitan police, who has told the public inquiry that 31m documents had been obtained.

Almost 4,000 separate lines of inquiry had been generated by the witness statements and documents examined so far, Mr Johnson said.

Human Rights Commission’s Grenfell inquiry

The independent Equality and Human Rights Commission has decided to launch an inquiry into the disaster. It will look at whether the Government and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea failed in their duties to protect life and provide safe housing, and is expected to foreshadow the official inquiry ordered by Theresa May and chaired by Sir Martin Moore-Bick. A focus will be placed on human rights laws.

The commission’s chair, David Isaac, said the decision to begin an investigation was made because of concerns that key questions – including the extent to which the state has “a duty to protect its citizens” – were being neglected.

Landlords shifting cladding costs onto leaseholders

An investigation by the Times newspaper has found that thousands of leaseholders at up to 100 private developments face huge bills to pay because landlords are shifting the cost of replacing flammable cladding onto them.

Others are sending bills for hiring wardens to monitor sites while they await repairs. Leaseholders accuse their freeholders of trying to profit from the Grenfell Tower tragedy – while the freeholders say that they are following government guidelines.

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid warned private landlords not to pass on the costs.

He told MPs at communities questions:

“When it comes to local authorities and housing associations, they have made clear that they will not be passing on the costs and that is the right approach. I would like to see [private sector landlords] follow the lead of the social sector.”

Fire safety costs surge

A BBC investigation shows that the cost of fire safety measures which councils and housing associations plan to introduce to high-rise buildings after the Grenfell tragedy has now reached at least £600m, although the figure is likely to be a considerable underestimate because many public and private landlords in the UK are still calculating their budget for safety works.

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