On 28 April 2022 the Building Safety Bill (the Bill) received Royal Assent and became an Act of Parliament. The Building Safety Act 2022 (the Act) affects all those involved in the planning and construction of properties and empowers the government to make regulations preventing development in England.
This wide-ranging power extends to “any purpose connected with” securing the safety of people in or about buildings in relation to risks arising from buildings, or improving the standard of buildings. The Government said the Bill would create “a clear pathway for the future on how residential buildings should be constructed and maintained”.
The Act comes almost five years after the Grenfell Tower tragedy where, in the early hours of 14 June 2017, a fire at the high-rise Grenfell Tower local authority apartment building in Kensington, London, caused 72 deaths and left over 70 people injured. The external cladding on Grenfell Tower was made of aluminium composite material sheets which allegedly acted as a catalyst in the spread of the fire.
The Grenfell Tower fire has had far-reaching consequences and has resulted in a crisis in building safety. Hundreds of thousands of people continue to live in buildings with similar cladding which urgently needs to be removed. It also raised concerns about the adequacy of the building regulations.
The Government initially proposed that the high cost of repairing buildings with defective cladding would fall to leaseholders. However in January 2022 the Government reset its approach. Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, said no leaseholder living in their own flat would need to pay to fix unsafe cladding. Instead, the cost of remediating existing buildings would fall to the industry, with Mr Gove threatening the use of “planning powers” against developers unless they agreed to contribute £4bn towards a fund to repair buildings with defective cladding.
On 14 February 2022, the Government published a series of amendments to the Bill aimed at forcing developers to pay to remove defective cladding and fix historical problems.
Preventing development or planning permissions for purposes connected with safety or standards can prevent planning consent being granted and prevent development where planning permission has already been granted. It was announced “for those in industry not doing the right thing, that the government will be able to block planning permission and building control sign-off on developments, effectively preventing them from building and selling new homes”.
The Act also laid the foundation for “building industry schemes” for industry organisations to contribute to the government’s fund for remedial works.
On 13 April 2022, the government announced that a large number of developers had signed its ‘building safety pledge’, which commits them to repairing buildings that they had developed or refurbished in the last 30 years. No such deal had been reached with construction products manufacturers.
It seems likely that the Government’s new powers under the Act will be used against manufactures of construction products and developers that did not sign up to the building safety pledge.
The 282-paged Building Safety Act 2022 also introduces a raft of fire safety measures overseen by a new Building Safety Regulator who will be responsible for scrutinising planning applications.
Secondary legislation is expected to come into force over the next 12-18 months to enable the Government to introduce these powers.
The content of this article is for general information only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. If you require any further information in relation to this article please contact the author in the first instance. Law covered as at May 2022.