Grenfell fire: Building regulations review 'paramount'

Exterior view of charred outer walls of the burnt out shell of the Grenfell Tower Image copyright European Photopress Agency
Image caption Fire engulfed the Grenfell Tower block, in west London, on 14 June

A review of all building regulations in the UK is "absolutely paramount" in the wake of the Grenfell fire, a former Wales fire chief has said.

Ronnie King said he had campaigned for a review since six people were killed in the Lakanal House fire in Camberwell, London, in 2009.

He said he was "frustrated and very angry" his campaign had been ignored and people had to die before change.

The presumed death toll from London's Grenfell fire stands at 80.

Mr King, the former chief fire officer for Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service, said he believed the public inquiry would lead to change.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Most of those who died were said to be in 23 of the building's 129 flats

"I'm sure things will change. It's a shame so many people had to die to get that change," he said.

He added: "I've been pressing successive governments for years to review the building regulations after the Lakanal House fire.

"At the [Lakanal] inquest the coroner suggested to the government that building regulations be reviewed."

In 2013, Coroner Frances Kirkham wrote to the then Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, flagging up several areas of concern.

Mr King, who is honorary administrative secretary for the All-Party Parliamentary Fire Safety & Rescue Group, has concerns about the way regulation changed in the 1980s.

He explained that previous regulations meant outside walls of buildings had to have a one-hour fire resistance.

Image copyright European Photopress Agency
Image caption Police have warned the final death toll after the Grenfell fire will not be known until at least the end of the year

But that changed in 1986 when the national Building Regulations replaced them.

"Tall buildings only needed to have a class zero certification, so materials just had to deflect flames," Mr King said.

Rydon Construction, the company that carried out the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower, including the exterior cladding, said the work met "all required building regulations".

Building regulations are devolved in Wales but Mr King said it "takes account of what England has done".

On Wednesday, retired Court of Appeal judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick was appointed to head an inquiry into the Grenfell fire. It will sit in public and have the powers to compel witnesses and obtain evidence.

Mr King said he expected the instillation of sprinklers to come up during the inquiry.

He said: "The group would support any decision to retrofit sprinklers into tower blocks because people don't die in sprinkler-ed buildings.

"When all else fails, the sprinklers will be 99% efficient... it's a myth that they go off when toast is burnt.

"The expert panel will come onto sprinklers and risk assessments and policy in general - all these things will come out in the public inquiry."

Image caption Cladding from Clyne Court, Sketty, failed a safety test but meets current regulations, the council said

The BBC understands samples of the same type of cladding used on Grenfell Tower is being tested from seven social housing tower blocks in Wales.

Meanwhile, the deputy leader of Swansea council has said local authorities whose tower block cladding has failed safety tests need to be told what to do next.

Clive Lloyd said four blocks in the city which failed tests met existing regulations.

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