Fire safety can be challenging at the best of times. Despite obvious major challenges for the Government to deal with, hours and hours have recently been given over to debate fire safety in the House of Commons and phase two of the Grenfell Inquiry continues, looking to lean from the horrific fire on 14th June 2017. External Wall Fire Review is a new introduction.

We were horrified to read in Inside Housing that Network Homes, a major London housing association has spent £840,000 on fire safety inspections and precautionary work, on a building that has subsequently be deemed not in need of this work, effectively wasting approaching £1m on a building that was already adequately safe! The housing association claims this is “shocking”. Network’s position reflects the real confusion around building safety guidance from the government, which has been prevalent for years.

The unnamed building houses 440 residential apartments and in addition to the waste of this huge amount of money the further impact has been that for an extended period, several of the development’s leaseholders were unable to progress sales, residents were unable to progress their wish increase their share of ownership through staircasing and those requiring to remortgage, left totally frustrated.

Network’s action, who clearly acted responsibly, reflects the real confusion which exists around building safety guidance from the government in recent years.  We’re sure this isn’t an isolated incident, the cost and human impact is huge.

The new External Wall Fire Review process means a fire safety assessment will need to be conducted, this undertaken by a suitably qualified and competent professional. Only one assessment will be needed for each building, which will be valid for five years.

The introduction of the EWS process has had the effect of almost paralysing the flat market, with nearly all banks unwilling to provide mortgages on these multi-occupancy buildings, as they are not fulfilling their strict security conditions. This is affecting flats and apartments above and below 18m, frustrating everything until they receive an EWS form, providing the required confidence of a clean bill of health for the building.

A Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government spokesperson said “We know many leaseholders and building owners are being asked for EWS1 forms unnecessarily, especially for lower-rise buildings. There is other evidence that can prove a building is safe, which we would encourage lenders to accept for valuations.”

“We’re also working with professional bodies to address capacity issues in cases where assessments are genuinely needed, in order to help resolve this issue urgently.”

Fire safety is key to every situation but the above illustrates some of the major challenges faced by the industry.

Jon Limer

Jon Limer | Director Peninsula Fire Safety

Photo: Daily Mail

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