Building safety programme
Read the steps building owners and tenants must take to ensure buildings are safe and compliant with government regulations.
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. London Fire Brigade will use The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 powers and require temporary interim measures in buildings where necessary. The 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 mid or 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 severe 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 severe cases, this may include removing and replacing 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 to ensure the safety of residents in Westminster.
The government have introduced new legislation to ensure fire safety for residents remains a priority.
Fire Safety Act 2021
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 building's 'Responsible Person', you must consider these parts when conducting your fire risk assessment.
Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022
The Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 make it a requirement in law for responsible persons of high-rise residential buildings to provide information to Fire and Rescue Services and to maintain certain fire safety provisions. High-rise residential buildings are those at least 18m or seven storeys high (whichever comes first), with two or more residential units.
The regulations also require responsible persons in multi-occupied residential buildings above 11 metres to provide additional safety measures.
In all multi-occupied residential buildings of any height, the regulations require responsible persons to provide residents with fire safety instructions and information on the importance of fire doors.
In high-rise residential buildings, responsible persons are required to:
- High Rise Building Data Portal: Register with London Fire Brigade High Rise Building Data Portal via the following link - High Rise Building Portal (london-fire.gov.uk)
- Building Plans: Provide London Fire Brigade with up-to-date electronic building floor plans and place a hard copy of these plans, alongside a single-page building plan identifying key firefighting equipment, in a secure information box on site.
- External Wall Systems: provide London Fire Brigade information about the design and materials of a high-rise building's external wall system and inform the Fire and Rescue Service of any material changes to these walls. Also, they will be required to provide information about the level of risk that the design and materials of the external wall structure give rise to and any mitigating steps taken.
- Lifts and other Key Firefighting Equipment: undertake monthly checks on the operation of lifts intended for use by firefighters and evacuation lifts in their building and check the functionality of other key pieces of firefighting equipment, including fire alarm systems. They will also be required to report any defective lifts or equipment to London Fire Brigade as soon as possible after detection if the fault cannot be fixed within 24 hours and to record the outcome of checks and make them available to residents.
- Information Boxes: install and maintain a secure premises information box in their building. This box must contain the name and contact details of the Responsible Person and hard copies of the building floor plans.
- Wayfinding Signage: install signage visible in low light or smoky conditions that identifies flat and floor numbers in the stairwells of relevant buildings.
In residential buildings with storeys over 11 metres in height, responsible persons will be required to:
- Fire Doors: undertake annual checks of flat entrance doors and quarterly checks of all fire doors in the common parts.
In all multi-occupied residential buildings of any height with two or more sets of domestic premises, responsible persons will be required to:
- Fire Safety Instructions: provide relevant fire safety instructions to their residents, including instructions on how to report a fire and any other instruction which sets out what a resident must do once a fire has occurred, based on the evacuation strategy for the building.
- Fire Door Information: provide residents with information about the importance of fire doors in fire safety.
The Building Safety Act
The Building Safety Act relates to requirements for the Responsible Person of buildings at least 18m or seven storeys high (whichever comes first), with two or more residential units. It received Royal Assent on 28 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 (BSR), which 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 focusing on high-rise residential buildings.
The Building Safety Act requires the accountable person for a building to gather key safety information about the building. This is called the 'golden thread of information' and should be stored in an easily accessible digital format.
The following link provides helpful information from the HSE on the changes and the information required for the golden thread. Building Information - Building Safety - HSE
Additionally, the accountable person may need to go into individual flats to collect some of the required information. The Act also outlines how and why they can gain access to flats if they can't arrange this through an agreement.
The accountable person will also need to register their building with the BSR and provide key pieces of information, along with the building's safety case report.
The registration service for high-rise residential buildings in England opened on 12 April 2023. Registering high-rise residential buildings that are at least seven floors high, or 18 metres tall or higher, with two or more residential units by 1 October 2023 is legally required. If you are the Principal Accountable Person for your building or have been authorised to complete registration, you can use the following link. Register a high-rise residential building.
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 must ensure 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 several Advice Notes, which resulted in the Consolidated Advice Note. This was withdrawn on 10 January 2022 but remains a historic reference document.
Where a detailed assessment of the 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 guides on assessing fire risk via an external wall of an existing multi-storey, multi-occupied residential building. PAS 9980 sets out steps 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 the 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 with an indication of whether remediation works should be considered further. RICS has also produced an informative guide to assist - Cladding Q&A (rics.org).
To assist those with legal duties, the Home Office has provided a number of guidance to help, which can be found at:
This includes guidance regarding small blocks of flats and purpose-built residential blocks, for which links are provided below:
Government Remediation Schemes
To protect leaseholders from expensive remediation costs, the government provides several schemes to assist, and links are provided below.
Recently, the Cladding Safety Scheme (CSS), previously named Mid-Rise Scheme (MRS), was launched for buildings between 11m to 18m. More details of the scheme can be found at:
The Secretary of State for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities set out the principle that leaseholders must be protected and that the industry responsible should pay to fix the problems it created. As a result, 49 developers have signed a pledge committing to remediate life-critical fire safety works in buildings over 11 metres that they have played a role in developing or refurbishing over the last 30 years in England.
Developers making this commitment have also agreed to reimburse any funding received from government remediation programmes in relation to buildings they had a role in developing or refurbishing. A full list of the developers can be found at:
If you live in a building over 11 metres requiring remediation, the developer should contact you to advise what measures they will take to remediate your building.
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 Building Manager.
If concerns continue without appropriate resolution, 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 get in touch with your local estate office.
Housing Association residents should contact their Property Manager in the first instance.
Published: 30 December 2020
Last updated: 31 October 2023