Publication - Minutes

Building and fire safety working group minutes: February 2020

Published: 1 Apr 2020
Date of meeting: 4 Feb 2020
Date of next meeting: 11 Jun 2020
Location: Victoria Quay, Edinburgh

Minutes of the meeting of the ministerial working group on building and fire safety that took place on 4 February 2020.

Published:
1 Apr 2020
Building and fire safety working group minutes: February 2020

Attendees and apologies

Attendees: 

  • Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning (Chair)
  • Stephen Garvin, Head of Building Standards Division
  • Wendy Wilkinson, Deputy Director Safer Communities Division
  • Tom Hardy, Safer Communities Division
  • Naeem Bhatti, Better Homes Division
  • Luke Macauley, Better Homes Division
  • Alasdair Perry, SFRS Deputy Assistant Chief Officer
  • Stephen Wood, SFRS Area Manager
  • Chris Getty, SFRS Group Commander, Head of Fire Safety Enforcement 
  • Simon Routh-Jones, HM Fire Service Inspectorate
  • Connie Smith, Safer Communities Division 
  • Gavin Gray, Safer Communities Division 
  • Bill Connolly, Health Facilities Scotland
  • Shona Harper, Building Standards Division
  • William Hamilton, Building Standards Division

Apologies:

  • Minister for Community Safety
  • Stephen Gallagher, Director Local Government and Communities
  • Shirley Laing, Director for Housing and Social Justice
  • Ross Haggart, SFRS Assistant Chief Officer
  • Alan Morrison, Health Finance Division
  • Tom Steele, Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board
     

Items and actions

Welcome and action points from previous meeting

It was noted that the Minister for Community Safety had sent her apologies as was now required to attend Cabinet in place of the Cabinet Secretary for Justice who in turn was attending a Scottish Parliament Committee Meeting.

It was noted that the minutes of the previous MWG meeting held on Thursday 03 October 2019 were agreed and published.

Update on previously agreed action points:

  • SG officials to prepare a letter for the Minister to send to the Chief Executive of Glasgow City Council seeking confirmation that the data return will be completed by 31 October 2019 (completed)
  • SG officials to produce a report setting out issues faced when undertaking data collection for the high-rise inventory (completed)
  • SG officials to prepare spreadsheet to issue for data collection (completed)
  • SG officials to prepare a letter for the Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning to send to his counterpart in the UK Government on this matter, pressing for a swift resolution (completed)
  • SG officials to prepare letters for issue by the Minister for Community Safety to MSPs to highlight new guidance for fire safety for residents in high-rise buildings and ask to bring to attention of their constituents once issued (completed)
  • SG officials to liaise with tenant/resident groups to highlight the new guidance on fire safety for residents in high-rise buildings and to add to meeting agendas once issued (completed)

Inventory of high-rise domestic buildings – update 

Officials presented papers on the high-rise inventory (HRI), including the summary report, progress update, and proposals for publication. An oral update was also provided on the latest data received/verified.  

It was noted that completing the HRI has been a significant undertaking. It has involved significant effort, particularly from local authority building standards departments, whose input was acknowledged. The HRI’s role in providing improved knowledge and awareness of the domestic high-rise building stock was noted by both Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and Scottish Government attendees. The HRI will be updated on an annual basis. 

It was also noted that two local authorities were still to finalise the dataset for their area.  

Action point:

  • SG officials to prepare letters for the Minister to send to the Chief Executive of each outstanding local authority to flag the importance of this information being completed

The Group discussed preparation for publication of the High Rise Inventory.

Grenfell Tower inquiry: phase one report – Scottish Government and SFRS response

Officials and SFRS representatives presented a paper on this item, accompanied by a presentation. 

It was noted that to consider the 46 recommendations to come from the report, SG officials have created a Grenfell Inquiry Fire Safety Group. This group is attended by representatives from the SG Community Safety, SG Housing, SG Building Standards, and SFRS. This group will assess each of the relevant recommendations made in the context of the Scottish legislative framework and building standards. Subject to wider developments, the intention is for this group to report into the MWG with recommendations it considers appropriate by summer 2020.    

Prior to the publication of the phase 1 report, SFRS had been compiling issues arising from the Grenfell Tower fire and taking action based on available information. This had been developed further with the production of an action plan based on the recommendations set out in the report. The Action plan is subject to scrutiny by senior leaders in the SFRS and its non-executive Board and SFRS intends to update the MWG as work progresses. It was also noted that HM  Fire Service Inspectorate in Scotland would also be invited to review the action plan.

Officials and SFRS representatives recommended and it was accepted that the MWG:

  • noted the on-going management by the SFRS of recommendations related to its operations
  • endorsed the collaborative work between SG and SFRS via the Grenfell Inquiry Fire Safety Group
  • noted the on-going research into ‘stay put’, which SG and SFRS are monitoring
  • agreed to receive updates from the SFRS and Grenfell Inquiry Fire Safety Group so that cross-cutting issues can be considered and progressed

UK Government announcements – January 2020

Officials provided an update on the main points announced by the UK Government on the 20 January 2020. These included:-

  • a new safety regulator within the Health and Safety Executive. A National Chief Inspector of Buildings is to be appointed. Dame Judith Hackitt will chair the Board to oversee the set-up of the Regulator. The establishment of this in shadow format is expected in early 2020 with a Building Safety Bill planned before summer recess
  • sprinklers – MHCLG is consulting on lowering the trigger height for sprinklers in housing from 18 metres to 11 metres. This approximates to Scotland’s current position, although in Scotland we are committed to extend this further to all new-build social housing, all new-build flats by April 2021
  • cladding – MHCLG is to launch a consultation which will include reducing the trigger height for non-combustible cladding from 18 metres to ‘at least’ 11 metres by late 2020 or early 2021
  • assessment and prioritisation of fire risks – MHCLG is issuing a call for evidence to support a departure from building height as sole criterion on fire risk. Measures introduced in Scotland on 1 October 2019, broadened the criteria to take account of building use and residents and the use of non-combustible cladding
  • ACM-PE remediation in the private sector – UK Government is unhappy at the slow pace of remediation, despite provision of funds to assist

A short discussion was had in regards to the UK Government position on the cladding and the use of BS 8414 fire test and whether the launch of the MHCLG consultation will influence the BSI review of the fire test.

It was noted that the UK Government had also introduced a ‘Consolidated Advice Note’ that superseded the previous 22 advices notes issued. It set out the UK Government’s Expert Panel’s position on action that building owners should take to address the risk of fire spread from unsafe external wall systems, as well as covering other issues. It was noted that officials were liaising with UK Government counterparts to discuss the rationale behind these changes and evidence used. It was also noted that a meeting was looking to be set up with Sir Ken Knight, Chair of the UK Government’s Expert Panel to discuss these matters further. 

Action points:

  • SG officials to provide updates to the Minister in regards to the BSI review of BS 8414 and what is happening in Europe regarding the fire test
  • SG officials to provide the Minister with an update on the issue surround external wall insulation systems with a brick-slip finish

MWG programme of work – update 

Building Standards Futures Board

Officials advised that work on the seven strands being taken forward are progressing well with three of those to reach milestones during 2020.

Cladding and mortgage lending

It was noted that this is an important area of work causing concern and anxiety to homeowners caught up in it and as such a lot of work is ongoing. It is fast moving, with a range of meetings taking place as a solution is sought, with all aware of the current position. In light of this, the Minister moved that a further update in this forum was not required at this time as he was holding regular discussions with officials on this matter.

(Post meeting note – The Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning has established and will chair a Ministerial Working Group to develop solutions for Scotland and to ensure that the EWS1 approach and the wider system works for the Scottish market and for Scotland’s homeowners. This group will bring together representatives of the mortgage lenders, surveyors, insurers, property managers, solicitors and fire service.)

HPL data collection

It was noted that although the preferred option was to collate information via the ProcXed programme being used for the HRI work, timings meant an excel worksheet exercise was instead used. HPL had been broken down into nine categories:

  • assembly and entertainment buildings
  • care homes
  • colleges of further education and university
  • high-rise domestic buildings
  • hotels
  • independent school
  • local authority schools
  • NHS Scotland buildings
  • Scottish Prison Service buildings

Requests have now issued and returns are expected by mid-February/early March. The exception is high-rise domestic buildings that a request is still to issue. It was decided to await completion of the HRI dataset so to not cause a distraction for local authorities. It is also envisaged that the information contained in the HRI will assist to pinpoint the buildings identified with HPL to acquire the relevant information required.

NUS meeting

Previously the NUS wrote to Scottish Ministers to request a meeting following the fire at student’s accommodation in Bolton, November 2019. The Minister responded providing the opportunity for the NUS to meet with officials to discuss concerns. Following no response, officials followed up the original correspondence and arrangements are now being made for a meeting to take place.

AOB and date of future meetings

The MWG agreed the next meeting would be scheduled for the 11 June 2020.

Contact

Email: BFSResponse@gov.scot

Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road
Edinburgh
EH1 3DG 

Building and fire safety working group