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60 seconds with… Nick Coombe, Hackitt and remediation lead, National Fire Chiefs Council

Ahead of speaking at HOMES UK, we asked Nick about what the Fire and Rescue Services are doing to improve fire safety in the built environment.

  1. What are you speaking about at HOMES UK?


I will be speaking about what the UK’s Fire and Rescue Services have been doing since the Grenfell Tower fire to improve fire safety in the built environment.


  1. It is almost 18 months since the Hackitt report, what in your view are the main areas that still need to change to fundamentally reform building safety?


Currently, there is too much focus on the future regulator and remediation of buildings with ACM cladding and not enough on the whole building safety industry.


Previous fire safety legislation following fire disasters have only fixed individual issues exposed in those fires, for example Kings Cross and Bradford.


If we are not careful, the current approach will only fix fire safety deficiencies in tower blocks and ignore other issues in the wider built environment. This would be a huge mistake.


  1. Do you think there are any barriers stopping or slowing progress to implement these changes?


Cultural change will be impossible to achieve until new legislation is introduced as building safety has been too deregulated. Under the current system builders can choose their own building control regulator, thereby leading to a pricing war rather than robust fire safety.


Comments from Fire and Rescue Services in response to building control consultations have been largely ignored to this point.


  1. How can these barriers be overcome?


MHCLG could speed up the review of Approved Document B, as there are many quick wins that could be achieved from the review. Letters could be sent to Local Authority Building Control and Construction Industry Council Approved Inspectors Register to encourage them to listen to Fire and Rescue Services’ comments and increase inspection activity with the cost picked up by MHCLG rather than their clients.


  1. What is your role in helping to bring about the reform?


I lead NFCC’s Building Safety Programme team – a national team responsible for the Fire and Rescue Services’ response to the Grenfell and Hackitt Review. The team are members of the following groups:


  • Industry Safety Steering Group
  • Industry Response Group
  • Competence Steering Group
  • Expert Panel
  • Protection Board
  • Joint Regulators Group
  • Ministerial Taskforce
  • Joint inspection Team
  • Residents Voice Group


  1. Why should people come and hear you speak at HOMES UK?

By attending HOMES UK, you will be able to hear how the Fire and Rescue Services will do everything they can to ensure that Government doesn’t just do the minimum in response to the Grenfell Tower Fire. We will work to create a lasting legacy to ensure that buildings are safe for people to live in from design to demolition.


Nick Coombe will be speaking as part of a session on Fire safety - adapting to the new normal on 27 November at 13:00-13:45 in the Mears Theatre. Register to attend HOMES UK for free* now.


*A fee applies for commercial organisations