Grenfell Tower

The Grenfell Tower tragedy prompted a major investigation into building regulations and fire safety

Here are the five key takeaways from the review.

1) Cladding controversy

The report was criticised more for what it did not say on cladding than what it did. Specifically, it did not call for a ban on the kind of cladding that allowed the Grenfell fire to spread so easily. This was attacked as a bad decision, so the government quickly changed its stance.

On the morning the report was published, Hackitt appeared on Radio 4 to say that she would support a ban on combustible cladding. By the afternoon, secretary of state for housing, communities and local government James Brokenshire announced that the government would consult on a ban on flammable cladding. Finally, under pressure from Labour MP Diane Abbott and BBC’s Question Time audience, minister for housing and planning Dominic Raab confirmed that the government “will proceed to ban combustible cladding”.

 2) ‘Outcomes-based approach’

The report makes a distinction between what Hackitt describes as a “prescriptive” approach and an “outcomes-based approach”. The former involves telling people what not to do, while the latter focuses on what needs to be achieved. Hackitt argues that the former approach is what led to Grenfell, as it resulted in contractors doing the bare minimum required by the regulations, rather than working to achieve a better outcome. This is why Hackitt did not recommend a ban on flammable cladding in the report, as she sees this as a “prescriptive” way of doing things.

3) Cultural change

As well as changing the way safety regulations are made, Hackitt called for a change in attitudes towards safety regulations. According to Hackitt, “ignorance” of and “indifference” to regulation within the system created a “race to the bottom”.

What’s more, she argues, misinterpretation of regulations is being used to “game the system”, so that projects can be completed “as quickly and cheaply as possible”. The report calls for a change in this way of thinking.

Andrew Kafkaris, founding director of Bruton Street Management, agrees that the “race to the bottom needs to be addressed”. However, he is concerned about how this will be achieved in economically poorer areas. “Good maintenance of existing buildings is reflected in higher service charges that do not always sit comfortably with residents,” he says.

4) Clearer responsibilities

On some occasions, the job of safety inspection is performed by an inspector paid by the council; on others, by approved inspectors from private companies. The report says this system has led to conflicts of interest, for example safety inspectors and building managers being paid by the same employer.

In other cases, Professor Gavin Parker, chair of planning studies at the University of Reading, says that “the opaque nature of public and private sector responsibilities” has led to “both confusion and risk avoidance”.

“In the future, building owners and managing agents will need to adopt a more complete approach to information”

Mark Varley, FirstPort

To solve this problem, the Hackitt report recommends clearer roles. Mark Varley, head of health and safety at FirstPort, says: “The changes will help us take more of a ‘whole-building’ approach to safety once the baton of responsibility is handed over to us by developers and freeholders. In the future, building owners and managing agents will need to adopt a more complete approach to information to replace the piecemeal approach that still exists in some cases.”

5) A voice for the community

Part of what exacerbated the Grenfell tragedy was the perception that the community’s concerns had afterwards either been unheard or ignored. Without a proper channel to voice their concerns, residents took to expressing their anger online through a blog, which they were forced to take down after the threat of legal action.

Hackitt’s report says residents need “a voice in the system”. It suggests giving them this by giving residents’ associations and tenant panels power and by making information on building safety more transparent.

The government has made big promises in light of the report, but there is no timeframe for implementing its recommendations. For Grenfell campaigners, the biggest question is: when?