Borough chosen as sole test case for future fire safety regulations

Camden Town Hall. Photograph: Camden Council

Camden Council has been singled out as the first and only local authority in the UK to be the testbed for new fire safety and building regulations.

It is understood the Town Hall will be feeding back to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) on “what works and what doesn’t” on putting into practice the recommendations made by Dame Judith Hackitt’s review carried out after the Grenfell tragedy.

Speaking at a fire safety advisory panel on 10 October, director of resident safety John Brett gave listeners examples of areas in which Camden was already reinterpreting Dame Hackitt’s review.

Brett said: “Camden’s been quite fortunate. The MHCLG, who are responsible for adopting the Hackitt recommendations, have asked a number of industry leaders and key stakeholders across the country to have an input into informing the legislation.

“We’re having quite regular meetings with the MHCLG on what we feel is best from a local authority perspective, a Camden perspective, and what we feel is good for our residents.

“[We have input into] looking at what we should be doing as a country going forward to ensure the outcomes from the Hackitt review are put in a good legislative format.”

Brett went on to outline two policy suggestions contained within Hackitt which Camden are currently in the process of finessing.

The review suggested organisations draw up building safety cases (BSCs) for each building, which would have specific set of data including building plans, fire risk assessments, and electrical and gas safety certifications, all contained within one document.

Camden are now understood to be feeding back on what a BSC should look like, with Brett saying that one unnamed housing association had “gone a bit too far” by using 3D laser modelling to pull plans together, with the formulation of the document eventually costing £40,000.

Brett also discussed the concept of a building’s ‘accountable person’, by which Dame Hackitt had suggested a named person to be designated in every single building, for which they would bear responsibility, but this was another area in which the resident safety director differed slightly from the policy suggestion.

Brett said: “My personal view is that it can’t be an invdividual, as what they’re asking for is too extensive for one person.

“You would have to be expert in gas, electric, and fire. The remit is too wide for one person. We don’t have resources in country as a whole to furnish all those positions.”

The director went on to suggest that rather than a person, the role could be fulfilled through a departmental function, by which an officer might be responsible for a group of buildings.

Draft legislation on building and fire safety regulations is currently scheduled to be enacted by Parliament in autumn of next year, though a detailed timetable has yet to be announced.

According to Town Hall officers, the timetable for implementation and compliance with any laws in the new safety regime are still unknown.