Updated Nov 12, 2021

Fire safety advice for low-rise blocks to be withdrawn

Safety advice that has left thousands of households unable to sell their homes after the Grenfell Tower fire will be withdrawn by Christmas, Michael Gove has announced.

The advice that has been in place since January 2020 has led to hundreds of low-rise buildings being deemed unsafe, meaning mortgage companies refused to lend against them. It called for building owners to check cladding systems on all blocks, regardless of their height. Previously, checks were only needed on buildings over 18 metres tall where the difficulty evacuating from a fire created a risk to life.

The Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities told MPs: "The Government has a responsibility to make buildings safe, but we also have a responsibility to relieve some of the obligations faced by leaseholders at the moment who are innocent parties in this and in many circumstances are being asked to pay disproportionate sums when there are individuals in business, some of them still in business, who are guilty men and women."

He also stated that he had paused a planned scheme to lend leaseholders money to pay for repairs found to be necessary after Grenfell, saying he was unhappy with leaseholders footing the bill and that he was seeking a "polluter pays" approach for covering cladding and other fire safety costs.

In a moment of candour, Gove also admitted that in the years leading up to the Grenfell Tower fire, the Government had made mistakes on fire safety. In the coming months, the public inquiry into the disaster will examine the role of Government ministers and officials. 

"The deregulation of assessment [of building materials] and the way in which it was done was mistaken, and I also think that the department itself will be seen to have, on a couple of occasions, not necessarily appreciated the importance of fire safety and not necessarily done everything in the wake of the Lakanal House tragedy that it should have done."

"We collectively, the department, some in local government, others in the private sector, failed people at Grenfell."