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Building regulations – compliance and enforcement: consultation analysis

Analysis of the building regulations compliance and enforcement consultation which ran between 11 November 2021 and 9 February 2022.


1. Introduction

1.1 Background to the consultation

1. In recent years, the UK has fallen victim to avoidable tragedies that experts note could have been prevented if appropriate building regulations and standards had initially been followed.

2. In January 2016, a storm caused an external wall to collapse at Oxgangs Primary School. While, fortunately, there were no casualties, some 17 schools across the city that were built as part of the same public private partnership scheme were forced to temporarily close in order to undergo building inspections. Some 7,600 school children were directly affected.

3. The subsequent independent inquiry identified fundamental defects that had led to the structural deterioration of the wall. The inquiry noted that the faults were not just made by a lone bricklayer but also by those inspecting the faulty work. Further investigations into buildings owned by the City of Edinburgh Council in 2018 revealed that out of 154 properties assessed, 19 (including schools, libraries, community centres and care homes) had the similar faults as those contributing to the incident at Oxgangs Primary School.

4. Soon after in June 2017, the Grenfell Tower fire struck in London, resulting in the loss of 70 lives and heralded as the worst residential fire since the Second World War. Following this tragic event, a public inquiry was instigated, which was separated into two phases. The first focused on the factual narrative of the events leading up to the night of the fire, while the second examined the specific causes of the events, including negligence that led to the condition of the tower allowing the fire to spread. This phase of the investigation is still ongoing.

5. In wake of these events, a Ministerial Working Group (MWG) on building and fire safety was convened by the Scottish Government to oversee regulations and guidance, reviews of building and fire safety frameworks and all other related matters, with the sole intention of protecting the public and ensuring a high level of safety within all buildings in Scotland.

6. As part of this, two expert panels were established to consider separate aspects of Scottish building standards safety.

7. The Review Panel on Fire Safety (reporting in June 2018)[2] concluded that the status and limitation of existing guidance needed to be made clearer. This panel also proposed changes to some standards, including recommending the extension of automatic fire suppression systems to additional building groups, and reducing the height at which certain building restrictions are enacted, from 18m to 11m.

8. The Review Panel on Building Standards Compliance and Enforcement (also reporting in June 2018)[3] considered matters relating to compliance and enforcement, and explored the strengths, weaknesses, and potential changes that could be made. This panel was chaired by Professor John Cole, who also chaired the Independent Inquiry into the Construction of Edinburgh Schools.

9. The panel concluded that the existing system in Scotland has several strengths – not least of which is the pre-emptive aspect to obtain a building warrant, which was recognised and commended in Dame Judith Hackitt's report following the Grenfell Tower tragedy. However, the panel's report noted shortcomings and made several recommendations around the need to strengthen compliance and enforcement. One key priority was to rebalance resources from checking compliance at design stage to checking compliance of actual construction.

10. Within the report, over a dozen recommendations were presented to the Scottish Government for consideration. In 2018, the Scottish Government then launched a consultation[4] focusing on the review panel's recommendations to obtain views and opinions of stakeholders relating to building and fire safety regulatory frameworks.

11. The main aims of the consultation were to review the roles and responsibilities of individuals undertaking verification, inspection and certification of building work in order to strengthen enforcement of building regulations; and to examine specific fire safety standards relating to external cladding, escape routes, sprinkler provision, and the proposal of a central hub for verifying complex fire engineered solutions, especially in terms of high-rise domestic buildings. Pye Tait Consulting was commissioned to undertake the consultation analysis and associated report[5].

12. The formation of the Building Standards Futures Board in 2019 is leading and directing an ambitious programme of work. This is being delivered through seven work streams of which the Compliance Plan is one. To support the work stream a Working Group was set up in October 2020.

13. Work to date aims to strengthen the building standards system by adding additional requirements. These include the proposed introduction of a new Compliance Plan Manager (CPM) role to manage the Compliance Plan. CPM responsibilities would include overseeing projects from start to completion. The proposed CPM role would only apply to High Risk Building Types (HRBs). It would also look to strengthen enforcement measures by considering the use of fines and penalties for offences.

1.2 About this consultation

1. The Scottish Government undertook a consultation[6] between 11 November 2021 and 9 February 2022 to seek views on the introduction of the CPM role on new buildings which fall within the HRB definition. The consultation also sought opinion on whether there should be a requirement to appoint a CPM on existing buildings that would fall within the scope of the HRB definition where they are being created by a conversion or in situations where these types of buildings are being altered or extended.

2. Respondents were invited to provide their views on specific aspects of the proposals by responding to an online consultation questionnaire.

3. The four parts of the consultation are as follows:

  • Part 1: Creation of a new Compliance Plan Manager (CPM) oversight role on High Risk Building types on behalf of the Relevant Person (normally the owner or developer);
  • Part 2: The definition of High Risk Buildings requiring a CPM;
  • Part 3: Level of penalties/fines relating to enforcement action under the building standards system; and
  • Part 4: Impact assessments.

1.3 About this report

1. The Scottish Government commissioned Pye Tait Consulting to analyse and report on all responses received to the consultation in order to identify the key themes and arguments raised by respondent groups in an objective, considered and representative manner.

2. The findings will support the Scottish Government to help ensure the health, safety and welfare of people in and around Scotland's buildings and to further the conservation of fuel and power and further the achievement of sustainable development.

1.4 Profile of respondents

1. A total of 91 responses were received to the consultation, comprising 36 answering as individuals and 55 answering for/on behalf of their organisation.

2. A breakdown of organisational respondents is summarised in Table 1, below. This is based on 50 organisations that selected their organisation type as part of the consultation questionnaire.

Organisation Type No. respondents
Local Authority 19
Professional Body 4
Contractor/Developer 2
Designer/Consultant 5
Academic Body 0
Industry Association/Manufacturer 6
Commercial Organisation 0
Voluntary Organisation 2
Housing Provider/RSL 1
NDPB/Agency 1
Advisory Body/Committee 1
Other 9

3. Those classifying themselves as 'Other' include three membership bodies; two fire-related organisations; a public sector procurement organisation; health body; new home warranty provider; and a community group representing a high-rise residential block of flats.

4. Within this report, a summary of responses to the consultation questions is presented systematically (question-by-question) to inform onward decision-making in each of the targeted areas. Based on the number of consultation responses received, breakdowns of responses to Likert-scale and multiple-choice (yes/no/don't know) questions are segmented according to two broad categories only: individuals and organisations.

5. Percentage labels on charts are only shown where the value is 4% or higher. This ensures the charts are clearly presented.

Contact

Email: thomson.dyer@gov.scot

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