Welsh government set to reform high-rise fire safety regulations

Government buildings in Cardiff, Wales.

The Welsh government is set to reform the system it uses to regulate fire safety in high-rise buildings, it has announced.

The Housing and Local Government Minister Julie James will now consider developing a new regulatory regime, to be implemented through new legislation, to replace Wales’ current Fire Safety Order and building control process.

The announcement forms part of the government’s response to the Road Map produced by its Building Safety Expert Group.

The ‘road map’ was established to improve fire safety in high-rise buildings following Dame Judith Hackitt’s independent report on the Grenfell Tower disaster.

James said: ‘We have a strong record of working to improve fire safety in people’s homes; we led the way in requiring sprinklers in all new and converted homes, and since responsibility for fire was devolved in 2005, the number of fires in dwellings has fallen further and faster in Wales than anywhere else in the UK.

‘The Building Safety Expert Group recommendations take a pragmatic and considered response to resident safety. We are taking forward this work at pace and while a number of areas, including possible legislation, will require more in-depth analysis, I will make a definitive announcement on a proposal for buildings in scope in the autumn.’

While the Hackitt report recommended that all buildings above 30 metres should be subject to a new regulatory system, the Welsh government believes that the situation is different in Wales, which has fewer buildings of that height than England.

For this reason, the Welsh government will consider a new system for all buildings above 18 metres, James has confirmed.

She added that the government will also consider whether the new system could apply to other types of high-risk buildings, such as those where vulnerable people sleep.

James stressed: ‘We will not compromise on effective delivery for the sake of “quick fixes” that fail to produce a safer result for residents.’

Earlier this year, a report revealed a widespread consensus among construction professionals that the UK’s housing crisis can only be solved by a rise in the number of high-rise buildings.

However, it also revealed that monitoring and evaluation (M&E) experts are regularly challenging developers’ requested specifications on high-rises to ensure that they are safe.


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