Publication - Minutes

Building and fire safety working group minutes: November 2020

Published: 21 Dec 2020
Date of meeting: 26 Nov 2020

Minutes of the meeting of the ministerial working group on building and fire safety that took place on 26 November 2020.

Published:
21 Dec 2020
Building and fire safety working group minutes: November 2020

Attendees and apologies

Attendees

  • Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning (Chair)
  • Minister for Community Safety
  • Stephen Garvin, Head of Building Standards Division
  • Catriona MacKean, Head of Better Homes Division
  • Tom Hardy, Safer Communities Division
  • Naeem Bhatti, Better Homes Division
  • Kathryn Fergusson, More Homes Division
  • Alasdair Perry, SFRS Deputy Assistant Chief Officer
  • Simon Routh-Jones, HM Fire Service Inspectorate
  • Brian McKenzie, HM Fire Service Inspectorate
  • 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
  • Ross Lindsay, More Homes Division
  • Karen Coyne, Better Homes Division
  • William Hamilton, Building Standards Division

Apologies

  • Stephen Gallagher, Director Local Government & Communities
  • Shirley Laing, Director for Housing and Social Justice
  • Wendy Wilkinson, Deputy Director Safer Communities Division
  • Tom Steele, Greater Glasgow & Clyde Health Board
  • Alan Morrison, Health Finance Division
  • Shona Harper, Building Standards Division

Items and actions

1. Welcome and action points from previous meeting

It was noted that the minutes of the previous MWG meeting held on Thursday 11 June 2020 were agreed and publishe

Update on previously agreed action points:

1. SG officials to provide Ministers with a copy of the draft report in regards to the Scottish response to the Grenfell Tower Inquiry: Phase One report as it currently stands. Completed

2. SG officials to continue to monitor timelines with possibility of moving forward deadline for producing the above report ahead of November and to provide regular updates to Ministers on the position of the UK Government Fire Safety Bill. Completed

3. SG officials to provide Ministers with a draft consultation plan for the Scottish Advice Note on Cladding. Completed

4. SG Officials to provide Ministers with a paper regarding the possible unintended consequences of banning ACM-PE and HPL cladding. Completed

5. SG Officials to keep Ministers informed of discussions with finance colleagues in regards to the cladding remediation fund. On-going.

2. Grenfell Tower Inquiry: Phase One Report – Scottish Government and SFRS Response

It was highlighted that the report was published on the 29 October 2020 and disseminated through social media.  Officials then presented a paper on this and how the Grenfell Inquiry Fire Safety Working Group will continue to monitor delivery of the actions to respond to the Phase 1 Inquiry and report to the MWG.

The Scottish Government response to the Grenfell Phase 1 Inquiry recommendations focuses on providing a proportionate response to achieve the intended fire safety outcomes, reflecting the different fire safety regime in Scotland to that in England.  The Scottish Government response builds on this and the work undertaken in Scotland to strengthen the fire safety regime for high rise domestic buildings following the Grenfell tower fire.  In particular this includes the Scottish Government Practical Fire Safety Guidance for High Rise Domestic Buildings and Guidance for Specialised Housing and other supported domestic accommodation that were published in December 2019 and January 2020 respectively.

The Scottish Government response did not recommend the introduction of new fire safety legislation at this time but this remains under active consideration.  This is consistent with the Scottish Government “Review of the Fire Safety Regime for Domestic High Rise Property” (2018) that acknowledged fire safety enforcement relative to multiple owners, including potential changes to housing and fire law, should be considered in the longer-term.

Comments were sought from housing stakeholders in local authority, social and private housing and the Fire Brigades Union on the Scottish Government approach in responding to the Inquiry Phase 1.  There was support for continuing to strengthen fire safety using the good practice Guidance.  A minority of participants indicated legislation for enforcement might be helpful. 

The fire safety Guidance, will be monitored and evaluated through research due to be completed in spring 2021.  It will inform further learning and improvements as required, including consideration of potential changes in legislation.  This research was delayed due to the prioritisation of the response to COVID-19 by the Scottish Government, but research commissioning is now underway.

HM Fire Service Inspectorate representatives advised it would be reviewing the actions to be taken forward by the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) in the coming year, with this forming part of their forward business plan.  Discussions have already taken place with the Chief Fire officer to make them aware.

AP1 – SG officials to clarify with the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations which recommendations they would wish to see legislation introduced.

3.Scottish Advice Note on Cladding

Officials provided an update on work to produce a Scottish Advice Note on Cladding and noted that the UK Government had published an additional summary note only the previous week in regards to their Consolidated Advice Note from the 20 January 2020.

The Technical Working Group (TWG) has met three times and a draft version of the guidance formed the basis of a three month targeted consultation that ran from July until the 25 October 2020.

Three webinars were organised in collaboration with the Construction Scotland Innovation Centre who also sent webinar flyers to their own database of contacts.  Tenants and resident groups were included in the targeted consultation.  In total, over 400 individuals registered for the events.

Results of poll questions posed during the webinar events showed that on average, 94% of attendees over the three webinars overwhelmingly supported the need for the Scottish Advice Note.  In contrast, residents groups and other professionals including members of the Mortgage Lending & Cladding Ministerial Working Group, whilst welcoming the additional guidance as a means to reduce risk, considered that the advice will do little if anything to alleviate the current issues around mortgage lending.

The final consultation analysis report is expected to be completed by 18 December 2020 while SG officials are considering all consultation responses received to review and amend the guidance as appropriate.  The Technical Working Group will be convened early in 2021 to discuss the independent consultation analysis report and the amended guidance following the consultation.

A final publication date and communication plan is still to be agreed with Ministers.

Discussion took place that was agreed that careful consideration before publication would be required to ensure there were no unintended consequences like that of the UK Government Consolidated Advice Note published in January of this year and to learn lessons from this, engaging with relevant stakeholders with copies of guidance before publishing.  A comprehensive communication plan is to be drawn up and presented to the group at the earliest opportunity involving SG communication officials ahead of any publication.

AP2 – SG officials to draw up a comprehensive communication plan to be shared with the group ahead of any publication of the Scottish Advice Note.

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

SG Officials advised that at the Local Government and Communities Committee meeting on 4 September 2020, the Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning announced that a panel of fire experts would be convened to consider a ban on the highest risk cladding materials through building regulations and to review the role of BS 8414.

The purpose of convening the Building Standards (Fire Safety) review panel is to consider a ban on Metal Composite Material (MCM) cladding panels and consider the continued role of BS 8414 in guidance supporting building regulations in light of any new evidence.  The review will inform whether or not any changes are required to building regulations, mandatory building standards and supporting guidance contained in the technical handbooks.

It was discussed that the review programme is challenging on two fronts as firstly, the review timetable would only allow consideration of mandatory standard 2.7 (Fire Spread on External Walls) and a ban on cladding that represents the greatest risk.  Any recommendations from the review panel will be based on sound scientific evidence and research.

Secondly, the UK Government are in the process of commissioning a 46 month research project to review the fire performance of facades including BS 8414 (and BR 135).  Phase 2 of the Grenfell Inquiry will also consider the fire performance of facades and BS 8414 (and BR 135) and is due to report in around 18 months.  The European Commission are developing European Harmonised fire test standards for façade systems incorporating large and intermediate scale fire exposure conditions with the final report is due in February 2022.  As a result, the review panel may not have all the necessary evidence within the current review programme to make any definitive recommendations to Ministers on the role of BS 8414 within the technical handbooks.

Questions were raised in regards to the timeframe for the UK Government research project and if was necessary to be 46 months.  SG Officials were asked to liaise with UK Government counterparts to explore the reasoning behind the duration of the project.

AP3 – 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).

5. Mortgage Lending & Cladding Ministerial Working Grou

SG officials presented a paper on this item along with oral updates on details that had come to light following submission of the paper providing an overview of the work currently being taken forward.

It was noted that recent press coverage over the previous weekend in regards to the UK Government announcing a solution to building owners in high-rise buildings without cladding not requiring an EWS1 were not entirely accurate with discussions still taking place between relevant parties.

HM Fire Service Inspectorate representatives highlighted recent discussions with the Fire Industries Association with regards to their website and creation of a EWS1 portal with no mention of Scotland.  Literature on the site focussed on the UK Government and England.  Contact had been established with the CEO of the Fire Industries Association and this will be looked into.  SG officials confirmed that in October they requested that the portal – the intention of which is to record EWS1 – included Scotland as part of the trial. Although it was noted that there were several issues that needed further consideration before SG could support the full roll out of this approach, including the ownership of and access to the data.  SG officials and HM Fire Service Inspectorate representatives to discuss further outside of this meeting and updates to be provided to Minister in due course.

AP4 – SG officials to keep ministers updated in regards to the Fire Industries Association EWS1 portal.

6. High Rise Building Inventory

Officials presented a paper on the current position of the High Rise Building Inventory following the publication of its summary report in March 2020 and the current asks/expectations being placed on the data gathering exercise moving forward.

Due to Covid-19 impacts on resources at LA and SG, the group was advised that it was not feasible to update the HRI by Spring 2021.  As a number of significant improvements to the HRI have been proposed in different fora, it was proposed that the HRI update should be postponed till Spring 2022 to better understand the implications of the proposed changes and allow further time for engagement with a range of stakeholders.

Ministers recognised the strain on resources and agreed that some additional time would be required, but that the HRI update could not be postponed till spring 2022.  A new revised timeline is to be drawn up and shared with the group for moving forward.

AP5 – 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.

7. Fire and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

SG Officials presented a paper on seeking parliament’s approval for a delay of 12 months to the Housing (Scotland) Act 1987 (Tolerable Standard) (Extension of Criteria) Order 2019.

The necessary regulations and the associated policy notes were laid in parliament on 20 November.  These regulations are made under the affirmative procedure and subject to Parliament’s approval will come into effect on 29 January 2021 in order to delay the implementation date to 1 February 2022.

If the delay is approved by the Parliament, then officials will continue to work with partners including the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service to spread awareness of the work needed to meet the new safety standards for fire and carbon monoxide detectors before the new deadline. 

It is intended that an awareness raising campaign will take place informing the public about the forthcoming legislation change.  Plans are being developed including securing the necessary budget for this awareness raising campaign.

SFRS representatives provided an update to highlight work being taken forward by the organisation and the continued funding being received to take forward this piece of work.  Currently three pilot projects are being taken forward to install detector systems, before rolling out nationally.

It was noted by the Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning that a date to appear before the Local Government and Communities Committee on this matter is still to be received.  SG Officials were asked to contact the clerk to the committee to see if this can be held before the end of the year. 

It was noted that a large volume of correspondence had also been received and the Minister noted the work done in responding and asked for the remaining cases to be responded as quickly as possible.

AP6 – 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.

AP7 – SG Officials to continue to respond as quickly as possible to the remaining correspondence in regards to fire and carbon monoxide detectors.

8. UK Government Building Safety and Fire Safety Bills

SG Officials presented a paper on this item with a representative from Building Standards providing the update on the Building Safety Bill, and Community Safety representative updating regarding the Fire Safety Bill.

The draft Building Safety Bill was published on 20 July 2020 and has since been receiving pre-legislative scrutiny.  The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee had held three evidence sessions over September and October 2020.  The latter session included evidence from Lord Greenhalgh, the Minister of State jointly at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and the Home Office.

It is expected that the Bill will begin its passage through the UK Parliament from early in 2021. 

SG Officials have engaged with counterparts at MHCLG regarding all aspects of the draft Bill since its publication in July.  An updated programme for the passage of the Bill has been requested.

Officials have set up a coordination group amongst Housing, Fire Safety, Planning / Architecture and Building Standards interests, and will liaise with SGLD and Constitutional colleagues on matters such as legislative consent and impact of EU Exit.

The UK Fire Safety Bill, introduced by the Home Office, is scheduled to complete passage through the UK Parliament and have Royal Assent by the end of 2020, subject to Parliament and potential impact of impact of Covid-19 on the timetable.

This Bill will clarify that the Fire Safety Order for England and Wales applies to: the structure and external walls; any common parts, including residential parts such as front doors; any building containing two or more domestic premises, i.e. not only high rise domestic buildings.  The Bill will also support secondary legislation to implement the other Grenfell Inquiry recommendations that the UK Government have recently completed consultation on.

AP8 – SG officials to liaise with UK Government counterparts to receive greater clarity on the legislative timeframe for the Building Safety Bill.

9. Progress Updates

SG Officials provided a brief update on the Building Standards Futures Board work that was created in response to the two building standard reviews commissioned by the MWG.

The Health Facilities Scotland representative advised that although not reporting to this group, an ‘Assurance Body’ is in the process if being set up with the organisation to ensure high standards are met in the NHS Scotland built environment.

10. AOB & date of future meetings

It was agreed that the next meeting of the MWG would be scheduled in due course.

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