Since 9 September the House of Commons Public Bill Committee has been scrutinising the Government’s Building Safety Bill (BSB) – landmark legislation that represents the Government’s most substantial response to the Grenfell disaster. 

 

The bill’s scope means that it presents a huge opportunity for real reform, which transforms not just how we ensure that tall buildings at risk of fire are safe, but the whole of the built environment. In its current form, it does not capitalise on this opportunity. It is nowhere near ambitious enough.

 

The Bill’s long title states that it ‘Makes provision about the safety of people in or about buildings and the standard of buildings…’. But the ‘safety of people’ is generally defined as an absence of health risks or harms, and many important building-related risks or harms are not dealt with in the current BSB.  Such health risks include those caused by air pollution, overheating, a lack of access to greenspace and walkable neighbourhoods and cramped living conditions, among others. 

 

Introducing a definition of safety which includes the concept of ‘health’ would open the bill up to considering critical factors like these. This is what Shadow Planning Minister, Ruth Cadbury, and Shadow Minister for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Mike Amesbury, argued in the Public Bill Committee last week. Their amendment read:

 

“In this part [of the Bill], “safety” means risk of harm arising from the location, construction or operation of buildings which may injure the health and wellbeing of the individual.” 

 

Citing the TCPA’s written evidence to the Committee, Mike Amesbury stated:

 

“…health risks and harms such as air pollution, overheating and noise pollution, as well as more indirect issues, such as poor accessibility or walkability, insecurity, lack of access to green space and cramped living conditions, are not covered by the Bill but undermine people’s wellbeing and health and ultimately their safety. I therefore hope that the Minister will consider the amendment.”

 

After an important debate, Amesbury and Cadbury withdrew their amendment. This is a major milestone for the Healthy Homes Act campaign, which lays the groundwork for further efforts to make the bill more ambitious as it moves through the legislative processes. Lord Nigel Crisp will be leading our campaign in the House of Lords.

 

To read the full transcript from the debate, click here

Date published: 23/09/2021