A group championing the causes of social housing tenants has called for mandatory annual fire drills and an end to the catastrophic “stay put” policy which cost lives at Grenfell.
The London Tenants Federation (LTF) has published its views to the government’s consultation about a proposed new building safety regulator body – which comes two years after the deaths of 72 people in the fire at the high rise block in north Kensington.
Alongside the end to “stay put” as the default evacuation strategy and annual fire drills in blocks of flats, LTF is calling for a ban on all forms of combustible cladding above 11 metres and a requirement for sprinklers and communal fire alarms in new and existing blocks.
They also want automatic access to legal aid to seek judicial reviews where complaints to the new regulator are not upheld, and a formal compensation scheme for those whose lives, earnings and health suffer as a result of landlord safety breaches.
“In Singapore, fire drills are a common practice in residential blocks, and 10 per cent of residents must attend,” said Pat Turnbull of the LTF.
“If a fire should occur, those 10 per cent will be best ready to help their neighbours.
“We welcome the idea of a new building safety regulator with teeth to take action against safety breaches, but the new system must be properly funded by central government and be independent of political and commercial interference.
“There are many positives but also many shortcomings with the government’s proposals, not least the suggestion that it will only cover residential buildings over 18m high when firefighter’ standard ladders will only safely reach up 11m.
“We’ve produced an example response, available on our website, and we are urging all social housing tenants and leaseholders to respond to this consultation. This is about being able to sleep at night knowing we are safe in our beds.”
Justice 4 Grenfell, which oversees the legal struggles, told the London Weekly News: “We agree with the LTF position.
“The ‘stay put’ policy can never be seen in isolation as the main factor that caused the fatalities at Grenfell Tower.
If the building had met the high specifications that it had been originally build with, then the building would not have failed to protect the former tower residents.
“A complete overhaul of building regulations needs to be implemented immediately.
This needs to include a fully-equipped fire service, materials that meet safety standards with the primary requisite of protecting lives and not used in any building regardless of height, retrospective removal of cladding and fitting of sprinklers.
“Only then will a building regulator have any superintending powers to keep us safe in our homes. This isn’t about cosmetic changes or named appointments.
It’s about a thorough overhaul of the branches and roots – ultimately it is about the political will to change and put lives first.”
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