Call from fire safety experts for timetable of building regulations updates as Grenfell public inquiry continues

Fire safety experts want a timetable of updates to be added to the section of the building regulations that covers fire safety in order that they keep up with modern building techniques.

The call comes as the public inquiry into the catastrophic fire at Grenfell Tower in west London kicked off last week.

A review of building regulations has also begun amid concern that they have not kept up with the use of cladding and insulation in the industry, given increasing energy efficiency stipulations.

Fire Safety Federation treasurer Ronnie King said a predetermined timetable of updates to Part B, the section covering fire safety, is needed in order for the UK to follow the safety lead of countries such as Australia: “The whole thing needs updating. Lots of things have moved on since 2006. In Australia they look at it every two years,” he said.

And Jim Glockling, technical director of the Fire Protection Association, said the lack of scheduled reviews is “simply unacceptable”. He said: “There has to be a guaranteed timescale for change. We can’t leave it to [the communities department] to do.”

Worries around the quality of enforcement also centre on whether private sector-licensed approved inspectors (AIs) – who have been able to sign off construction work independently of local authority building control since the 1980s – suffer from a commercial conflict of interest that makes it hard for them to refuse to sign off projects. 

Meanwhile, council building control departments have said they are facing squeezed resources following budget cuts. 

Steve Cooper, fire engineering partner at Cundall, said: “The quality of enforcement has reduced significantly on the back of approved inspectors. Everyone knows that certain AIs will believe anything they are told without needing evidence.”

Yesterday, the Metropolitan Police said the number of firms identified as being involved in the construction, refurbishment and management of the Grenfell tower had rocketed to more than five times the original figure of 60.

The police said it was wading through 31 million documents and speaking to more than 2,000 people as part of investigation.