Tower Blocks UK welcomes Dame Judith Hackitts' recommendation that "Government should provide funding for organisations working at both local and national level to provide advice, guidance and support to residents, landlords and building owners on effective resident involvement and engagement in order to develop a national culture of engagement for residents of all tenures".
We set up Tower Blocks UK after the Grenfell Tower disaster because we found no national body able to provide advice and support to tower block tenants and landlords. Our research has told us that the tenants' movement in this country is now very weak as the result of funding cuts. Dame Judith is right, if tower block tenants are to be safe it is vital that they have adequate representation both locally and nationally.
Whilst we are pleased Dame Hackitt has recognised the role of tenants in bringing concerns to light and welcome her recommendation for national and local funding there must be a clear legal route for tenants who do not have their worries addressed.
Dame Hackitt refers to being pressurised by interested parties which becomes evident as there are many issues which require clarity. For example it is puzzling why she would define a Higher Risk Residential Building as over 10 storeys high rather than the generally accepted 6 storeys. Is this a cost cutting exercise? Why are Fire Risk Assessments still only required at level 1?
We are sorry not to see sprinklers and second escape routes recommended for current blocks and are disappointed she isn't calling for a ban on combustible cladding. She does however recommend:
“A clearer, more transparent and more effective specification and testing regime of construction products must be developed. This should include products as they are put together as part of a system.”
The government is holding a consultation about this which we call to be delivered to a short timescale - not kicked into the long grass.
Here's a response from one of our colleagues:
Professor Helen Carr, University of Kent , co-author of Closing the Gaps
“It is good to see that the report recognizes the importance of an enforcement route for tenants of high rise buildings. I would urge the government to take up the suggestion in our report that the First Tier Tribunal (Property) Chamber would provide an excellent enforcement route. It has powers to inspect premises, it includes experts on building and fire safety, it is user friendly and knows the Housing Health and Safety Rating System back to front. Any recommendations it would make to the oversight body could be relied upon to be fully informed.”