Association president John Norfolk said that key housing figures within the country’s two main political parties have expressed similar interest in effective reforms of building standards enforcement
Commitments to push for the formation of a new building safety regulator by Secretary of State for Housing, Local Government and Communities Robert Jenrick have been welcomed by BESA as an example of a cross-party political consensus for drastic industry reforms.
John Norfolk, president of the building services association, said that Mr Jenrick backed the possible formation of a revised regulator in response to Dame Judith Hackitt’s Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety. The publication of the review last year demanded widescale reforms in current industry practice following the Grenfell Tower fire over fears about a regulatory structure that was not fit for purpose.
Mr Norfolk said that the potential realisation of a new regulatory body alongside wider ongoing work on planning a drastic legal overhaul of building standards and quality would provide “welcome scrutiny” of existing technical skills and poor compliance across the construction and HVAC sector. He added that the pledges of support made from a serving government figure would need to be supported by fresh investment from government to training if to introduce meaningful policy change.
Mr Norfolk said, “Improving safety and competence is something every politician should be comfortable in supporting.”
“Whether you are the party that claims to support small businesses and the working class or backs free market economics, having a better quality built environment that improves living and working conditions for all is something you can all agree on.”
Mr Norfolk also cited recent comments by Shadow Housing Secretary John Healey that called for a greater focus in the forthcoming Queen’s Speech on meaningful reform of the Building Regulations.
The BESA president added that the recent calls and commitments reflected a broad political consensus in the country’s two largest parties to commit to reshaping standards and regulations as they relate to buildings and their key functions.
Mr Norfolk said, “Without a progressive and competent sector, how can we start to deliver on the government’s commitment to a net zero carbon economy by 2050?”
“Improving our built environment to address climate change will also allow us to address some of our biggest social justice problems. A low carbon built environment will also be a high quality built environment that offers a way out of poverty and poor health.”
BESA’s president also raised concerns over the failure of efforts to meaningfully tackle poor payment practice in construction, especially for SME HVAC specialists that he said were at major risk of being forced out of businesses as a result.
Mr Norfolk also noted ongoing industry efforts to introduce a Retention Deposit Scheme. A proposal for new legislation that was introduced to parliament by MP Peter Aldous last year was cited by the BESA president as an example of the changes needed in UK regulations concerning the built environment.
The ‘Aldous bill’, as it is known has only received a single reading in parliament so far after numerous delays.
Mr Norfolk added that the sector would happily work closely with politicians to tackle poor payment, which would also be vital to help support industry in addressing the “shoddy regulation and poor compliance culture” identified by Dame Judith in her review.
A panel discussion entitled, ‘A New Era of Building Regulations - A Chance for Reform’ will be one of the key sessions taking place at the H&V News Future of HVAC Summit takin place on 3 October at the Bloomsbury Hotel, London. More information on the speakers and programme can be found here.