CIH Scotland calls for holistic approach to fire safety
Responding to the Scottish Government’s consultation on building standards and fire safety, CIH Scotland has welcomed the review of standards and the need to ensure that recent incidents in Edinburgh, leading to the death of a school pupil, and the Grenfell fire are not repeated.
However, the proposal to require fire suppression systems to be installed in new build homes has raised some concerns.
It is not clear how the installation and maintenance of fire suppression systems would be funded which is a particular issue for social landlords who are already under pressure to meet ambitious energy efficiency targets, deliver more new homes, support tenants affected by welfare reform measures and keep rents affordable. If no additional grant funding is made available by the Scottish Government, costs would have to be met through rent increases.
While cost should not be the only factor in deciding future building standards, it is imperative that the costs involved are fully understood so that any changes to regulations can be planned for effectively. CIH Scotland’s response also calls for reassurance that tenants have been fully engaged in the consultation and understand the financial implications before any decision is made.
In relation to private sector housing, it is not clear how sprinkler systems would be monitored going forward to ensure that proper maintenance is carried out.
The response adds that a holistic approach must be taken to fire safety and that physical measures alone will not be enough to ensure that tenants are residents are safe. Any changes in regulations must be underpinned by strong communication and engagement, ensuring that tenants and residents know how to reduce the risks of a fire starting and know what to do if a fire does break out.
Ashley Campbell, Policy and Practice Manager at CIH Scotland said:
"Our members work to make sure that all homes are built and maintained to the highest standard and we fully support this review of building standards and fire safety. We want to see every person in Scotland living in a high quality, safe home regardless of their tenure. However, we need to bear in mind that any new regulations will have to be paid for and this could have an impact on the affordability of our homes.
"It is also vitally important to ensure that all aspects of fire safety are considered, not just physical measures. Providing tenants and residents with the right advice, information and support can help to prevent fires from happening in the first place or ensure that people know what to do in the event of a fire. The results of this consultation must be considered alongside the wider recommendations of the Building and Fire Safety Ministerial Working Group."
The CIH Scotland response to the consultation can be found here.