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Building safety programme

Read the steps building owners and tenants must take to ensure buildings are safe and compliant with government regulations.

Published: 30 December 2020

Last updated: 26 October 2022

Overview

Following the Grenfell Tower tragedy, the government established the Building Safety Programme to ensure the safety of residents living in high rise buildings. As part of this programme building owners and tenants must take steps to make sure their properties are safe.

Westminster City Council have been working closely with the London Fire Brigade and building owners to ensure all buildings in Westminster remain safe. Where necessary, London Fire Brigade will use The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 powers and require temporary interim measures in buildings. Immediate safety of residents is our utmost priority, and we have been working closely with our partners to make sure that all buildings are safe.

Where there are concerns about the external wall systems on a high-rise residential building a Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) assessment under the Housing Act 2004 will be undertaken. If the assessment indicates a very serious fire risk due to the external wall system, the Council may consider taking formal enforcement action to ensure any risk is reduced to an acceptable level. In the most serious cases this may include the removal and replacement of cladding and insulating materials. Such matters are complex, expensive and will potentially require expert consideration. Where such matters arise, the Council will consult with owners, leaseholders and occupiers to ensure appropriate action is taken.

This programme of inspections and assessment continues in order to ensure the safety of residents in Westminster.

Legislation

The government have introduced new legislation to ensure fire safety for residents remains a priority.

This includes.

The Fire Safety Act clarifies the scope of the Fire Safety Order to make clear it applies to the structure, external walls (including cladding and balconies) and individual flat entrance doors between domestic premises and the common parts of a multi-occupied residential building.

If you are a buildings ‘Responsible Person’, you must consider these parts when conducting your fire risk assessment.

The Building Safety Act relates to requirements for the Responsible Person of buildings that are at least 18m or 7 storeys high (whichever comes first), with 2 or more residential units. It received Royal Assent on the 28th April 2022 and should be fully enforceable by October 2024. However, some aspects of the Act will come into force earlier.

For tenants and leaseholders, the Act has a number of important considerations including;

  • Your responsibilities for your flat and the communal parts of the building.
  • Active engagement with residents.
  • Protections for qualifying leaseholders in not having to pay toward the cost of removing dangerous cladding to the external wall system and capping the contribution for remediation of non-cladding defects on buildings.

The new legislation will also be supported by the introduction of the Building Safety Regulator  who will ensure that buildings are safe for occupation throughout the life of a development. They will oversee the safety and performance of all buildings, including having an important focus on high-rise residential buildings.

Advice for building owners

A Fire Risk Assessment is a legal requirement. If you are responsible for a building, for example an employer, owner or occupier of premises that aren't a 'single private dwelling' (a private home), you need to make sure a suitably competent person completes a Fire Risk Assessment. Failure to meet your legal obligations under the legislation can result in a prosecution by London Fire Brigade.

Following the Grenfell tragedy, the Government released a number of Advice Notes, which resulted in the Consolidated Advice Note . This was withdrawn on 10th January 2022 but remains a historic reference document.

Where a detailed assessment of external walls of an existing multi-storey, multi-occupied residential building is deemed necessary it should now be carried out in accordance with the more comprehensive and holistic guidance included in Publicly Available Specification (PAS) 9980.

PAS 9980:2022 provides guidance on how to assess the risk of fire via an external wall of an existing multi-storey, multi-occupied residential building. PAS 9980 sets out steps that can be taken to identify and assess risk factors as well as mitigation steps that might improve the risk rating of a building via a holistic and fact-based assessment of a building’s construction. Where it is determined that a detailed assessment of an external wall is required, PAS 9980 should now be used for these assessments.

In addition to the above building owners may receive requests for the EWS1-FORM. This was created by Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) with the Building Societies Association (BSA) and UK Finance. The EWS1 Form is not a legal requirement. However, many mortgage lenders require it for any purchase of a dwelling within a residential block. They also provide owners an indication whether remediation works should be considered further. RICS have also produced an informative guide to assist - Cladding Q&A (rics.org).

Points of contact

If you are a resident and have a concern about fire safety in your building, then it is recommended you raise your concerns in the first instance with your Property Manager and/or Building Manager.

If concerns continue without appropriate resolution, then you may wish to raise your concerns with London Fire Brigade.

Additionally, if you live in a high-rise residential building (above 18m) in the private sector and have concerns about the external wall system then you can contact the Building Safety Programme at Westminster City Council at [email protected]

If you are a resident in a building owned by Westminster City Council, please contact your local estate office.

Housing Association residents should contact their Property Manager in the first instance.