Publication - Minutes

Building and fire safety working group minutes: March 2021

Published: 23 Mar 2021
Date of meeting: 11 Mar 2021

Minutes of the meeting of the ministerial working group on building and fire safety that took place on 11 March 2021.

Published:
23 Mar 2021
Building and fire safety working group minutes: March 2021

Attendees and apologies

Attendees: 

  • Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning (Chair)
  • Minister for Community Safety
  • David Robb, Interim Director Local Government and Communities
  • Stephen Garvin, Head of Building Standards Division
  • Wendy Wilkinson, Deputy Director Safer Communities Division
  • Catriona MacKean, Head of Better Homes Division
  • Alan Morrison, Health Finance Division
  • Tom Hardy, Safer Communities Division
  • Kathryn Fergusson, More Homes Division
  • Stephen Wood, SFRS Area Commander
  • Gordon Pryde, SFRS Area Commander
  • Simon Routh-Jones, HM Fire Service Inspectorate
  • Tom Steele, Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board
  • Bill Connolly, Health Facilities Scotland
  • Connie Smith, Safer Communities Division 
  • Gavin Gray, Safer Communities Division
  • Colin Hird, Building Standards Division
  • Simon Roberts, Better Homes Division
  • Shona Harper, More Homes Division 
  • Karen Coyne, Better Homes Division
  • Henry Bird, Communications Division
  • Anne-Marie Hughes, Building Standards
  • Benny Rooney, Building Standards Division
  • William Hamilton, Building Standards Division

Apologies:

  • Shirley Laing, Director for Housing and Social Justice
  • Naeem Bhatti, Better Homes Division
  • Alasdair Perry, SFRS Deputy Assistant Chief Officer

Items and actions

Welcome and action points from previous meeting

It was noted that the minutes of the previous MWG meeting held on Thursday 26 November 2020 were agreed and published.

Update on previously agreed action points:

  • SG officials to clarify with the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations which recommendations they would wish to see legislation introduced - ongoing
  • SG officials to draw up a comprehensive communication plan to be shared with the group ahead of any publication of the Scottish Advice Note - ongoing
  • SG officials to liaise with UK Government counterparts to explore the reasoning behind the 46 month timeframe for their research project to review the fire performance of facades including BS 8414 (and BR 135) - completed
  • SG officials to keep ministers updated in regards to the Fire Industries Association EWS1 portal - completed
  • SG officials to draw up a new timeline in regards to the collation and publication of the High Rise building Inventory for later in 2021 - completed
  • SG officials to liaise with the clerk of the Local Government and Communities Committee to check whether the date for the Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning attendance at the committee in regards to fire and carbon monoxide detectors regulations can take place  before the end of the year - completed
  • SG officials to continue to respond as quickly as possible to the remaining correspondence in regards to fire and carbon monoxide detectors - completed
  • SG officials to liaise with UK Government counterparts to receive greater clarity on the legislative timeframe for the Building Safety Bill - completed

Scottish Advice Note on cladding

Before officials presented the update paper on the Scottish Advice Note on Cladding, the Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning took the opportunity to remind everyone that the purpose of this working group and what is being done is in regards to life safety. Officials need to remain vigilant and not lose sight of this priority.

Officials provided an update that the targeted stakeholder consultation exercise on the Scottish Advice Note (Version3) that closed on 25 October. Twenty-seven responses were received and independent analysis by EKOS together with feedback from the public webinars has been published on the Scottish Government website.

Analysis has shown that from owners, concern was expressed to the technical detail contained in guidance. On the 12 February 2021, the fourth meeting of the Technical Working Group was convened to address changes made to the SAN post consultation. The SAN has been re-structured and amended significantly - Part 1 for owners and managers (user-friendly and less technical) and Part 2 for fire engineers and risk assessors/appraisal experts (more technical and detailed).

The final version is being prepared and attempting to align with RICS guidance although focus remains on life safety. Work also being taken forward to align current building regulations with the SAN and a submission will be sent to Ministers early the following week.  

The Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning reiterated the need to focus on life safety, but also indicated that some further engagement with key stakeholders should be undertaken to address alignment with the RICS guidance and potential unintended consequences. The engagement to take place in April/May, and publication of the final SAN in the summer.

Action:

  • SG Officials to review the ‘Next Steps’ in regards to publication of the SAN and update Ministers frequently

Metal Composite Material Cladding Ban and BS 8414: Fire Safety Review Panel

SG officials advised members that the Building Standards (Fire Safety) review panel met for the first time on the 11 December 2020 and will be holding their second meeting on the 12 March 2021.  

The second meeting will focus on high risk cladding, looking at definitions, what should be banned and what buildings this should cover. The group are also looking at approaches being taken by other countries across the world rather than just the UK (e.g. USA, Australia, Japan, Sweden, New Zealand, Spain, Norway, Germany, Singapore, Slovenia). The recommendations that will come from the review panel will be based on sound scientific evidence and research. It is noted that the review panel consideration will also be limited as evidence including recommendations from the Grenfell Tower Inquiry will not be known until after this review is completed.

It was noted further detail on immediate action that we can take on the above and BS 8414 will be included in a submission to go to Ministers this week.  

The Minister for Community Safety enquired if SFRS had a perspective on this piece of work, particularly around restricting materials to certain heights. SFRS representatives advised that further discussion was required and would need to take account of SFRS operations on the ground. These discussions are to take place offline.

Actions:

  • SG officials to provide Ministers with a submission detailing immediate action that can be taken in regards to the highest risk MCM cladding and the large scale fire test BS 8414
  • SFRS to consider further and Minister for Community Safety to be advised in due course

High Rise Building Inventory

SG Officials provided an update to the working group, highlighting that the data collection exercise was now open for Local Authorities (LAs) to update. This iteration of the High Rise Inventory (HRI) follows the same scope and access as the first iteration published in 2020. This will allow direct comparisons to be made on key aspects of the construction and fire safety features of high rise domestic blocks.

The aim is for the data collection exercise to close at the end of this month, allowing for the data to be analysed and published by June. This is dependent on LAs completing their data input.  It was also advised that SG officials are exploring options on how the HRI could be expanded and/or improved. Further advice will be passed to Ministers in due course.

SFRS representatives advised that the HRI is of value as a single source of risk information. Going forward, its value is expected to increase as new iterations develop. The representative from HM Fire Service Inspectorate for Scotland highlighted that as part of their business plan for the next three years, they will be picking up on the work of the HRI to ensure it is being shared within SFRS and being factored into their own work moving forward.

The Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning enquired if the information held by the Scottish Government on known issues have been shared with LAs and being added to the update for the HRI. More Homes officials advised that enquires being received through correspondence are being raised with the relevant LA but a better route on raising with who requires to know the information is required and will be looked into. 

Building Standards officials advised that as part of the HPL data collection exercise, it is the intention to cross check with the HRI data once complete and go back to LAs if they have omitted information.

Action:

  • SG officials to look at ways to disseminate information between the SG and relevant LAs

Fire and carbon monoxide detectors

SG Officials provided an update confirming Parliament’s approval to delay by 12 months the Housing (Scotland) Act 1987 (Tolerable Standard) (Extension of Criteria) Order 2019 that will now come into effect on 1 February 2022.

SG officials advised that they are liaising with marketing colleagues on a substantial and wide ranging awareness campaign. Marketing activity will be developed in close collaboration with key partners and stakeholders including SFRS. SFRS representatives reiterated their commitment to support the Scottish Government campaign on this and the need to also involve the third sector and other key partners.  SFRS also requested sight of the Scottish Government’s engagement strategy to allow time to align with SFRS’s existing Community Safety Campaigns.

SFRS advised that their existing Home Fire Safety Programme prioritised visits based on fire risk factors rather than financial factors and there was very limited capacity to widen this out. SFRS were happy to consider other options to support Scottish Government where possible and asked that the extent of those facing financial risk was quantified. The Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning highlighted the intention to deploy others to assist SFRS with this exercise so to ensure they are not taken away from their already valuable duties any more than required.

Progress updates

SG officials proceeded to provide oral updates to Ministers in regards to workstreams associated with the work being taken forward through the Ministerial Working Group on Building and Fire Safety. This included an update on from the Mortgage Lending and Cladding Ministerial Working Group that is due to meet on the 15 March 2021; details on the announcement of single building assessments due to launch later this month; and the current position of the HPL data collection exercise and informing a submission will be with ministers in due course on this, including other relevant Cabinet Secretaries for their portfolio interests.

Oral updates were also received on the current position of the UK Government’s Building and Fire Safety Bills and equivalent pieces of work in the other devolved nations. The ongoing work of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry during Phase Two was discussed including the revelations to come from this in regards to Kingspan and Warrington Fire. SG officials advised that they are liaising with the appropriate LAs on the matter.

An oral update was provided in regards to the NHS Estate and liaison with SG officials regarding the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital. It was also highlighted that it had now been announced that the Edinburgh Sick Kids Hospital would open later this month after passing the necessary safety checks.

Action:

  • weekly summaries of Phase Two to the Grenfell Tower Inquiry evidence sessions to be shared with the Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning and the Minister for Community Safety

AOB 

No further points were raised by members to the group.  

Both the Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning and the Minister for Community Safety took the opportunity to mark this being the last MWG of the current Parliamentary Term. It was acknowledged that whilst a lot had been taken forward and completed there was a lot more was still to be done. Not least of which is the Grenfell Tower Inquiry that continues and will produce recommendations from ‘Phase Two’.