Driving Building Safety Reform

, 07 December 2020

On the 28th September, Executive Director of Long Harbour, Richard Silva, appeared in front of the Housing, Communities and Local Government (HCLG) Select Committee to give Oral Evidence as part of the Committee’s pre-legislative scrutiny of the draft Building Safety Bill.

Hailed as the biggest change to building safety for nearly 40 years, the Building Safety Bill brings forward a range of new building and fire safety reforms. These were borne out of proposals in the Government’s consultation: Building a safer future, which outlined how the Government intends to deliver the principles and recommendations set out in Dame Judith Hackitt’s Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, commissioned in May 2018 in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire.

This was part of the Bill’s first round of pre-legislative scrutiny, which is the detailed examination of an early draft Bill by a parliamentary select committee – in this case the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee – before the final version is drawn up by the Government and presented to Parliament. Members of the specialist Committee examine the policy objectives, key provisions and likely impact of the draft Bill, which will ultimately inform the final piece of legislation.

As part of this, the Committee consulted a range of industry experts. Long Harbour’s Executive Director, Richard Silva, was called as an expert witness as part of this process. This is the second time he has presented to this Committee and the evidence he gave will help shape the new building safety regime.

Richard’s evidence centred around the issue of building oversight and maintenance, which are core to the role of a professional freeholders. Specifically, Richard highlighted that the function of the proposed new ‘Accountable Person’ is a role already being performed by Long Harbour on the sites in its portfolio. He welcomed any move to codify this further and praised the Government for increasing transparency, saying it “sets a bar” for what freeholders and managing agents should do as part of their professional commitment to residents.

The challenges associated with bringing existing stock into compliance with the new Bill was also discussed, including the increased costs for leaseholders in the form of the proposed Building Safety Charge. It was thought that for new build developments, this would be minimised as they would be designed and built with the new regime in mind. There was, however, a clear consensus that building safety costs should not be brought onto the consumer, and specifically not outside of the standard service charge.

Long Harbour’s Executive Director, Richard Silva, said:

“I welcome the opportunity to support policymakers in their scrutiny of these reforms and was pleased to be able to assist the Committee with their work. This is a crucial piece of legislation and I hope the Government use this opportunity to drive further reform within the industry. I firmly believe that professional freeholders like Long Harbour have a key role to play within this, ensuring high standards and protecting the interests of the end consumer.”

The Committee have since published their report, citing Richard’s belief that the proposed role of the Building Safety Manager could be an “aspirational role” with the “appropriate focus on vocational training and academic excellence”. This will now be reviewed by Government before the Bill is introduced to Parliament for scrutiny at some point in 2021.

 

The full session can be accessed here, and Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee report, here.

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