Building Safety (UK)

I wrote quite some time ago, about HMG review of cladding and fire safety aspects following the Grenfell Tower Fire.

Yesterday (18th July) HMG made the following written statement –

Building safety update

My Rt Hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (James Brokenshire) has today made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I wish to update the House before the Summer recess on building safety, including: my expectations of building owners on the removal of unsafe Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) cladding; the steps this Government is taking on the remediation of existing buildings; wider updates on testing programmes; and early action on delivering the recommendations to reform the building safety regulatory system.

My priority is that residents should be safe – and feel safe – in their homes. All buildings with ACM cladding have had interim safety measures put in place as soon as they have been identified, and Fire and Rescue Services are conducting inspections to ensure those measures remain in place.

However, too many people have been living in fear for too long because of the slow progress being made by those responsible for making their buildings permanently safe. While many building owners have rightly taken action, there are still a number of residential buildings across the public and private sectors with unsafe ACM cladding where remediation has not yet started.

I am clear that this situation is unacceptable. That is why I want to set out my expectations on the timing of remediation of buildings with unsafe ACM cladding. Given the £600 million of funding this Government has made available, there is no further excuse for delay.

In the social sector, other than a small handful of exceptional cases, remediation will be completed by the end of the year.

In the private sector, progress has been slower, which is why this Government took action by announcing a £200 million fund. By the end of December 2019, any building in the private sector which I have not been assured is permanently safe should have a clear commitment to remediation, with a start and finish date agreed. Where no such safety assurance or plan has been brought forward by the end of December, building owners can expect enforcement action to be taken. My expectation is that, other than in exceptional circumstances, building owners should complete remediation within six months of agreeing a plan – by June 2020.

I acknowledge that this Government also has a role to play in ensuring that remediation is undertaken. That is why, on 9 May I announced that this Government was introducing a new £200 million fund to unblock progress in remediating private sector high-rise residential buildings. My Department has been in contact with relevant building owners or managers to enable them to start preparatory work on an application to the fund. My Department will today publish a prospectus setting out the scope and eligibility criteria for the fund, how to apply and the timetable for submitting applications.

To help facilitate remediation, I would like to clarify the planning treatment of ACM cladding replacement works. Planning permission may not be required where the external appearance of a building is not materially altered by replacement cladding. Approval for recladding is only needed if the work amounts to “development” within the meaning of section 55 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 or is required within the terms of a previous planning permission.

Local planning authorities should take a proportionate approach and work proactively with building owners to identify whether planning approval is necessary. I strongly encourage developers to engage with the local planning authority at the earliest opportunity during development of their remediation plans.

Where a planning application is considered necessary, pre-application engagement can help to resolve any issues and assist local planning authorities in issuing timely decisions. Local planning authorities should also take a proportionate approach to the amount of information needed to support an application and consider carefully whether charging a fee for their early advice is appropriate in these cases. Decisions on applications should be made as quickly as possible and can be made as soon as the time limit for consultation has expired. Building owners would also need to ensure that the work complies with Building Regulations and that they obtain the necessary approval.

My Department has also commenced a data collection exercise which will enable the Department to build a complete picture of external wall systems in use on high rise residential buildings. We have asked local authorities and housing associations to identify external wall materials and insulation on all high-rise residential buildings 18 metres and over.

On 11 July a fire test in accordance with British Standard 8414 was carried out at the laboratories of the Fire Protection Association. This test was commissioned by my Department on the advice of the Independent Expert Advisory Panel and involved a cladding system consisting of a Class B, fire retardant, high pressure laminate rainscreen with a non-combustible rock fibre insulation. This is part of an ongoing, systematic investigation into the fire risks from non-ACM cladding systems. I can confirm that this system met the relevant pass criteria and that the Expert Panel are satisfied that this specific system does not present a risk to public safety. Detailed advice from the Expert Panel on high pressure laminate cladding systems is also being published by my Department today.

My Department has also continued its investigations into fire doors. We have already made available the results of a sample of Glass-Reinforced Plastic composite fire doors tested by my Department. Following the advice of the Expert Panel, Government expanded the testing to include timber fire doors. Today I am making available the results from the testing of a sample of timber fire doors from 25 manufacturers. I am pleased to report that all have succeeded in meeting the required 30-minute fire performance standard. The sample included a range of glazed and un-glazed fire doors with a variety of hardware and were tested on both sides of the door. The summary results of the timber fire door tests to inform building risk assessments are now available at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/fire-door-investigation

As a result of our tests, the Expert Panel have concluded that they do not believe there is a performance concern with timber fire doors across industry, where they are purchased directly from the manufacturer and produced to specification.

It is important to be clear that, although the results of our testing provide assurances for residents who have concerns about their fire doors, it is for building owners to assure themselves that the fire doors they install are fit for purpose and have the required documentation and certification. Guidance for building owners who are replacing flat front entrance doors can be accessed at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/advice-for-building-owners-on-assurance-and-replacing-of-flat-entrance-fire-doors

Since 2007, building regulations guidance has stated that all new blocks of flats over 30 metres should have sprinklers. In 2013, the Department wrote to all local authorities and housing associations, asking them to consider a Coroner’s Report recommendation that they should consider retro-fitting sprinklers in existing residential buildings over 30 metres.

The Housing Revenue Account borrowing cap was abolished on 29th October 2018, giving freedom to local authorities to help finance unforeseen capital repairs programmes, such as retro-fitting sprinklers, as well as build new homes. It is for building owners to seek professional advice and decide whether to fit sprinklers, on the basis of their assessment of the particular risk faced in their buildings.

At the heart of the regulatory reform is our intention to establish a regulator to oversee the safety and performance of all buildings. We are working closely with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), who are sharing their considerable regulatory experience and expertise to help us shape the functions of the new regulator, alongside other members of our Joint Regulators Group. My Department is working with partners to develop proposals to allow the regulatory functions to exist prior to the new legislative regime being in place. We are similarly seeking the advice and input of the HSE on implementing the new regime following legislation.

This statement has also been made in the House of Commons: HCWS1757

UK Brexit Guidance Update (UK Brexit)

Exit day is 31st October.

Yesterday (18th July) HMG updated the guidance it had issued before the first exit day, to apprentice providers and persons operating further education collages – here.

[it also updated the guidance for schools]

This Blog does not cover employment law, or immigration law.

The Guidance is useful in that it summarises a range of matters, from travel and visas, to food supplies, and the situation for employing people after Brexit.

Please note there is no update to the (February issued) European temporary leave to remain instruction – here.

per the European temporary leave to remain instruction – EU, EEA and Swiss citizens who are granted European temporary leave to remain will be able to stay in the UK for 36 months from the date it is granted. European temporary leave to remain will be a temporary, non-extendable immigration status. It will not give indefinite leave to remain (ILR), lead to status under the EU Settlement Scheme or make EU, EEA and Swiss citizens eligible to stay in the UK indefinitely.

If EU, EEA and Swiss citizens want to stay in the UK for more than 36 months, they will need to apply for an immigration status under the new immigration system, which will come into effect from 1 January 2021. Those who do not qualify will need to leave the UK when their European temporary leave to remain expires.

If you’re an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen who enters the UK before the UK leaves the EU, you’re eligible to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme to continue living in the UK. EU, EEA or Swiss citizens and their families will be able to remain in the UK indefinitely if they are granted settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme.

If you’re an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen who arrives in the UK after the UK leaves the EU but were previously living in the UK before Brexit, you can also apply to the EU Settlement Scheme.

Irish citizens are excluded from the aboveIrish citizens will not need to apply for European temporary leave to remain. They’ll continue to have the right to enter and live in the UK under Common Travel Area arrangements.

Food Supplies (per the guidance to apprentice providers, and it’s also in the schools document – similar guidance is in the instructions for hospitals and care homes)

The government has been working to plan arrangements that ensure goods can continue to flow into the UK without significant delays from additional controls and checks. We are continuously engaging with a wide range of stakeholders to support industry preparedness. However, the government does not have control over the checks imposed by EU Member States at the EU side of the border.

The government, including the Department for Education, will continue to work with food suppliers to prepare for a no deal departure from the EU. Colleges have significant flexibilities in terms of how they provide food for students that are eligible for free meals.

We advise that you contact your food supplier(s) if your college procures food directly to ensure they are planning for potential impacts of a no deal scenario. For example, this may include plans to adapt menus to allow for product substitution.

This would also include seeking reassurance on the ability of suppliers to continue to provide nutritious meals and to accommodate special dietary needs and allergens when introducing any substitute products.

Brexit Readiness (Ireland)

UPDATE (10th July) – Northern Ireland Department for the Economy Trade and Investment Data under No Deal is here

Exit day is 31st October (114 days)

Today, Ireland’s Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney is due to bring three Brexit memos to Cabinet, including a revised contingency action plan which will be published later in the day. (I will update this post online to link the document). The July updated Plan is here.

NEW: Goods exported from the UK to Ireland will be subject “to a minimum 24 hour notification period” hitting business reliance on roll-on-roll off ferry trade [this was expected]

The contingency plan, circa 100-pages long, is an update of the plan published last December, and then updated in January, before the first Brexit exit day of March 29th. (I posted about this plan at the time). The December plan (with its January update) is accessed here.

Per the Irish Times writing on the subject – It will cover preparations in about 20 areas, including aviation, road haulage, retail, tourism and medicines.

There will also be a memo describing preparations at ports and airports. In the January update preparations had not been fully advanced, a greater amount of detail, can be expected in this July update. We still await details of the measures for the land border with the UK, but these are expected only after October 31st.

Per the Irish Times writing on the subject – According to sources familiar with its content, the memo will approve the permanent structures at airports and ports, including Dublin and Rosslare Europort.

The third memo will outline communications plans required to inform businesses and the public about the implications of a no-deal Brexit.

[if the Ports and Communications memos are published, I will update this post online]

A campaign to prompt holders of UK driving licences to apply for Irish licences is already under way. In addition, information was made available and carried in newspapers on the island of Ireland prior to March to prompt drivers with UK car insurance to obtain Green Cards. This information (licences and insurance) is also set out, but not the subject of a state information campaign, on the UK side, and motor insurance companies have written to customers on the UK side.

The starting point for traders on both sides is EORI registration. EORI registration on the UK aside is still lagging.

The International Road Haulage (Permits) issue on the UK side was eased with the EU’s announcement of the temporary waiver, but this runs out at end of December, and would need to be extended.

The UK issued in March, its proposal for temporary customs arrangements for goods entering Northern Ireland from Ireland – here.

UK Brexit Preparedness – Medicines (UK Brexit)

Exit day is 31st October (127 days)

Today, 26th June, sees the following :

(1) Ministerial Statement – here

(2) Letter to Suppliers re Medicines – here

Ministerial Statement – extracts

Guaranteeing the supply of critical ‘category 1’ goods, including medicines, medical products, veterinary medicines and chemicals remains an essential element of the Government’s No Deal contingency planning. The Government is therefore undertaking steps to secure freight capacity for suppliers of these goods in a No Deal scenario.

The Department of Health and Social Care is starting the process of setting up an express freight contingency arrangement to support continuity of supply of medicines and medical products. This will be an urgent contingency measure for products requiring urgent delivery, within a 24-48 hour timeframe, if the UK leaves the EU without a deal. This express freight contingency arrangement forms part of the Department’s multi-layered approach, which includes rerouting medical supplies from the short strait crossings, extra warehouse space, stockpiling, buffer stocks, clarifying regulatory requirements, supporting traders to have all necessary paperwork in place at the border, and strengthening the processes used to deal with shortages to ensure that patients have uninterrupted access to medicines and medical products if the UK leaves the EU without a deal. Government will only pay for capacity as and when it is needed and used. This will be designed to cover all of the UK. The Department will be writing to industry to set out further details of these preparations.

The Department for Transport is putting in place a freight capacity framework agreement that will provide government departments with the ability to secure freight capacity for our critical supply chains as and when required. This framework does not commit the Government to purchasing or reserving any freight capacity, but it does provide a flexible list of operators and options for the provision of the capacity that can be drawn upon if needed.

In the coming months, the Government will make further announcements on its preparations for a possible No Deal Exit on 31 October, including on trade continuity agreements to limit disruption to our trade with third countries after we leave the EU.

Letter to Suppliers re Medicines – extracts

All no-deal preparedness plans should contain a mix of the following, depending on each company’s specific situation:

–  Secured capacity for rerouting freight away from the short straits after no-deal exit day, in order to avoid the worst restrictions on flow outlined above.

–  Stockpiling product above and beyond business-as-usual inventory levels; as a default, this is recommended as six weeks’ stock above business as usual inventory, the same as last time.

–  Assurance on the readiness of a company’s logistics and supply chains to meet the new customs and border requirements for both import and export (sometimes referred to as “trader readiness”).

Where companies have not yet done so [made a plan] the Government asks that they build a plan which includes a stockpile of an additional six weeks’ supply in the UK, on top of operational buffer stocks, in addition to developing a robust re-routing plan away from the short straits. As before, for products with a short shelf life or where production constraints mean stockpiling is not possible, for example, medical radioisotopes, we ask for alternative air freight plans to be made.

In the coming days, companies will be asked to provide information at product level, focused on the minimum key data set necessary for assurance of the programme. This will build on information from the 29th March exercise, including stock levels expected to be held on 31st October and plans for re-routing away from the short straits.

EU Brexit Preparedness (EU Brexit)

UK Exit day is 31st October 2019

Please read this Blog post carefully, if you have any questions or uncertainties as to your actions, please email to arrange a telecon.

Today, 12th June, the EU Commission published its fifth Brexit Preparedness Communication – it is a review of the state of the EU Brexit preparedness and contingency measures, and is important for activities in the EU and in the UK. The document is here.

Key elements :

(1) As stated in the fourth Brexit Preparedness Communication of 10 April 2019, the Commission is ready to propose financial support measures (applicable to the E27) to mitigate the impact in the most affected areas and sectors, taking into account the funds that are available and any adjustments on the expenditure and revenue side of the EU budget that might result from a disorderly withdrawal. For more immediate support to affected stakeholders, EU State aid rules offer flexible solutions for national measures. But see Item (4) below.

(2) In this review, the Commission screened all the EU-level measures to assess whether they are still fit for purpose given the extension of the Article 50(3) TEU period. On the basis of this screening, the Commission considers that the legislative and non-legislative Union acts continue to meet their intended objectives. There is therefore no need to amend them on substance. The Commission does not plan any new measures ahead of the new withdrawal date (31st October).

(3) The Commission adopted 16 non-legislative contingency acts under the EU sanitary and phytosanitary legislation in view of the previous withdrawal date of 12 April 2019 on the basis of assurances given by the United Kingdom. These measures are now obsolete due to the extension. However, if the United Kingdom continues to provide the necessary assurances, the measures will be re-adopted to apply as of 1 November 2019.

These acts cover the listing of the United Kingdom and its Crown Dependencies as a third country allowed to export live animals and animal products to the EU; and the approval of new or extended Border Inspection Posts in the EU27 Member States most concerned by UK imports.

They do not cover acts on the recognition of health marks for products of animal origin, heat treated pallets, or fortified flour (UK requests).

(4) In some sectors, companies indicated in March 2019 that they had not had sufficient time to adapt. The Commission strongly encourages stakeholders to take advantage of the extra time until 31 October 2019 to ensure that they have taken all the necessary action to prepare for the United Kingdom’s withdrawal.

They should ensure that the necessary regulatory authorisations are in place, that they have taken the administrative steps for cross-border trade and the necessary action for relocation, corporate reorganisation or contractual adaptations.

In particular, it will not be possible to place on the EU market after Exit day products which do not comply with the necessary requirements and authorisations.

As stated above, the Commission does not plan to adopt any new measure in view of a possible no-deal scenario or to compensate for a failure to prepare by operators.

The Commission considers that the additional time available because of the extension will in principle be sufficient for operators to adapt, so that even in cases where exemptions or derogations are available, they should not be necessary.

(5) EU27 Member States should screen their national contingency measures to ensure that they remain fit for purpose given the extension of the Article 50(3) period. In case of a no-deal withdrawal, the final preparatory measures must apply as of 1 November 2019 at the latest.

(6) Note the specifics on medicinal products, medical devices and chemical substances – page 5 of the document (link above).

(7) In the field of sanitary and phytosanitary controls (SPS), EU27 Member States have set up new Border Inspection Posts (BIPs) or extended existing ones at entry points of imports from the United Kingdom into the EU. As stated above, the non-legislative act approving these BIPs will need to be adopted again given the most recent extension of the Article 50(3) period. In the meantime, EU27 Member States should use the additional time to evaluate the need for any further adjustments to these BIPs to ensure that they are fully functional from the outset.

Furthermore, the Commission maintains regular contacts with the most concerned Member States so that, in a no-deal scenario, a landbridge route between Ireland and the rest of the European Union via the United Kingdom can be implemented swiftly, including support from the necessary IT systems.

(8) The international road haulage measure expiry deadline of 31st Dec 2019 is unaltered.

It is important companies review their supply contracts, and ensure suppliers are Brexit ready.

Review of Marine Protection (England)

DEFRA last week announced the designation of 41 more Marine Conservation Zones in English waters.

Today it is announcing a review of whether and how new stronger protections for areas of the sea known as Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) could be introduced. This review is to be led by Richard Benyon, a Conservative MP and former Environment and Fisheries Minister who has a particular interest in marine fisheries and their protection. The announcement is here.

The new HPMAs would protect vulnerable areas of England’s coastal, inshore and marine waters by closing them off to any human activity with the potential to cause harm.

The Government’s manifesto includes a commitment to create a Blue Belt of marine protection for Britain’s overseas territories and its own coast.

Per DEFRA – targeted HPMAs would complement the existing network of marine conservation zones and allow vulnerable marine wildlife to fully recover, free from all damaging human activities, with the aim of restoring areas to a pristine state.

The UK’s Blue Belt currently spans 220,000 sq km with 128 Marine Conservation Zones including 89 in English waters.

Targeted Highly Protected Marine Areas would complement the existing network of Marine Conservation Zones, and would mark the most significant expansion of England’s ‘Blue Belt’ of protected areas to date, if it happens.

The review will be asked to establish an evidence-based process and criteria for selecting Highly Protected Marine Areas, and if supported by the evidence, recommend potential locations for pilot sites.

The review is supported by Natural England.

The views of those who use the seas will be at the heart of the review, which will over six months consider the economic and social impacts on businesses and individuals who use the sea, taking into account the views of fishermen, conservation groups, marine industries, and local communities. (DEFRA)

UK Industrial Goods Export to EU (EU Brexit)

Exit day is 31st October 2019.

The EU issued in February a Q&A document answering questions arising on the specifics of UK Industrial Goods circulation in the European market following Exit. This document is here.

Please examine this document carefully, particularly as respects the point in the circulation when the Third Country regime would apply, and the matter of Technical Dossier transfer (Category D).

Any questions not addressed by this Q&A should be made to the UK BEIS department.

The UK has said it would permit CE marked Goods to circulate in the UK market after Exit day, as far as I can determine, this is not reciprocated by the EU (as respects UKCA marked Goods). If anyone has an update on this, perhaps they would email me it. Thank you.

[the Exit day may change, please continue to follow this Blog]