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Home builders play system to avoid post-Grenfell safety rules

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Home builders can “play with the system” to avoid fire safety rules put in place after the Grenfell Tower tragedy, a fire chief has warned.

Paul Jennings, deputy commissioner of the London Fire Brigade, said there are “hundreds if not thousands” of new buildings being examined by fire safety engineers which may be “deliberately” designed to avoid strict fire safety rules put in place after the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017.

They include those designed to be less than an 18-meter limit to be considered a high-rise building, which would require more advanced fire safety measures.

We have examples where we think people are deliberately designing and constructing their buildings below this threshold.

Paul Jennings, London Fire Brigade

He told the BBC’s Newsnight: ‘We have examples where we think people are deliberately designing and constructing their buildings below that 18-meter, six-story threshold, because they know that if they reach that threshold, they should put in place advanced and more complex fire safety measures. in.”

The deputy commissioner described these new buildings in the British capital as examples of the ‘system game’.

He warned: “We are potentially expanding the legacy issues that we are already discovering now in London and cities across the country. “

When asked how many new buildings in London were being built to avoid the rules, he replied that it was probably “hundreds, if not thousands”.

“We find that about 60% of construction consultations go into the fire engineering team and others are where we back down,” added Mr. Jennings.

The London firefighters’ warning comes after Housing Secretary Michael Gove made his first appearance before a committee of MPs who asked questions about building safety.

On Monday, Mr Gove told the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee: “We have collectively – the department, some in local government, others in the private sector – people who have failed to Grenfell and there are people who were and still are in buildings where there is a significant risk.

He went on to say that as the Grenfell Inquiry looked into the government’s role in the disaster, his department “will be seen to have, on a few occasions, not necessarily appreciated the importance of fire safety.”

Communities Secretary Michael Gove.

Asked who should pay for the work needed to secure the affected buildings, Mr Gove confirmed he would “pause” plans that would see tenants take out loans to pay for remediation work.

Some tenants have reportedly been hit with bills in excess of £ 100,000 to replace dangerous paving or pay for so-called ‘watch nights’ where someone is employed to patrol a building for fires.

The Housebuilders Federation, which represents real estate developers, told Newsnight: “Developers follow building regulations set by the government without exception.

“Today’s standards are considerably more demanding than previous versions. Building regulations differ depending on the type of building, but all have the safety of residents at the heart of their concerns. “

The government said, “The safety and well-being of residents is our priority and the Building Safety Bill will strengthen the surveillance and protection of all in high-rise buildings.

“All new buildings, regardless of their height, must meet the fire safety requirements of building regulations and we have already banned the use of all combustible materials on the exterior walls of new residential buildings over 18 years old. meters. “