Approved Document B
On January 3, 2018, I wrote to my MP as follows:
We’re now approaching the fifth anniversary of the Lakanal House inquest and the rule 43 letter sent by the Assistant Deputy Coroner, Frances Kirkham, to DCLG  in which she made comments on Approved Document B that were broadly ignored  at the time, and have been ever since.
Although some amendments  were made in 2013, this was coincidental, and the only change with respect to the exterior of buildings was a concession to reduce the burden of testing on manufacturers. Eric Pickles did, however, promise that research was underway, and expected a new version of Approved Document B to be published in 2016/17, a deadline which has now passed.
In case the significance is unclear, the Coroner discovered in the inquest that the only legal requirement for exterior panels to be fireproof had been in GLC by-laws that had been swept away in the mid 80s.
I could be grateful if you could ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government why, in the nine years since the fire, five years since a new review was promised, and six months after Grenfell, the Coroner’s suggestions have not been acted on, and Approved Document B still permits the use of non-fireproof exterior cladding on residential property. You might also ask him whether the research Mr Pickles referred to ever existed, whether the review was ever carried out and, if so, why the government failed to reveal this news until more people had died.
A line spelling out the expectation that fireproof materials be used on building exteriors doesn’t seem so complicated a thing to write, and there seems to be no humane, rational, legal or even economic reason to wait for the current round of reviews, inquiries, inquests and
handwringing to subside before doing so, just as there wasn’t five years ago.
She kindly forwarded my concerns to Sajid Javid, at the relevant Department, and his reply is here
In short, research into the ‘usability’ and ‘style’ of the document is being undertaken. That is all.
I can understand why they’re unwilling to update the document. Changing it now might look as if Approved Document B, under which both Lakanal and Grenfell works were approved, was somehow responsible for the lowering of standards since the GLC by-laws were disappeared in 1985, that the government knew about this, and that the government did nothing. Far better, in political terms, to disguise such changes behind a ‘usability’ study which could easily imply that prior problems were the fault of users (builders and inspectors) of the document, rather than with the document itself.
Equally, it could mean there’s no legal basis for the millions of pounds of upgrade and replacement work being done at the expense of leaseholders, tenants and taxpayers, and possibly still no unequivocal requirement for fireproof panels to be used in new or refurbishment work…