Government measures on combustible cladding do not go far enough, say firefighters

The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, James Brokenshire, has changed the law to allow local councils to remove cladding from some buildings. The regulations, laid last week, mark the first change to fire safety legislation since the Grenfell Tower fire 18 months ago, and will enable councils to remove aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding on new buildings which are over 18-metres in height, as well as making limited exceptions for schools and hospitals.

Despite the focus on ACM materials, evidence suggests that the government may be grossly underestimating the number of buildings clad in combustible materials. This data shows that there are around 2,135 high rise, and high risk, buildings, which are clad in combustible materials. Of these, this change in the law will only account for around 457, which are privately-owned.

Commenting on the regulations, Matt Wrack, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union said:

“The focus on only privately-owned buildings is misguided – the true scale of the problem is much bigger. Buildings up and down the country are unsafe – the government must address it as a whole, rather than providing a sticking plaster.

“Not only has the government taken too long to act, but their plans do not go far enough. We are clear, that to prevent another tragedy from occurring, all combustible cladding must urgently be replaced on all buildings, irrespective of height. This would require a major national programme to assess and prioritise the scale of the risk and adopt interim safety measures which residents, other building users and firefighters could have confidence in.”

Recent findings from the Fire Protection Association has outlined the very serious risk of fire toxicity, and the danger of certain cladding combinations.

Wrack continues: “Combustible cladding must be avoided at all costs. The government must listen to the experts and ensure a full and proper review of materials and the effects of fire toxicity. We are calling for a blanket ban on all combustible materials which do not meet A1 classification, or are deemed to be of ‘limited combustibility’ but are ultimately still flammable.”

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