Review of regulatory models for building safety

Building regulation powers were devolved in 2011, granting Welsh Government ministers the power to make changes to the regulatory building safety system in Wales. The Grenfell Tower tragedy has exposed the need to make improvements to the building safety system.

The Welsh Government is in the process of reforming the current system, following a Programme for Government commitment to ensure ‘people feel safe and secure in their homes’. In 2021, the Welsh Government issued a White Paper on reforming the legislation and culture around building safety. This drew on findings from the 2018 Hackitt Review: the UK Government-commissioned independent inquiry into building regulations and fire safety following Grenfell; and the Welsh Government’s Building Safety Expert Group 2019 report, ‘Road Map to Safer Buildings in Wales’.

The Welsh Government asked WCPP to summarise the international evidence on regulatory models for building safety to inform decisions on reforming the regulatory model in forthcoming legislation. In response to this request, WCPP convened a roundtable discussion on 16th December 2022 between academic experts and senior officials from the Welsh Government.

This report summarises the key conclusions from this discussion with additional supporting evidence. It begins by considering current building safety regulations in Wales and the Welsh Government’s proposal for reform to the existing regulatory system in its White Paper, including the proposed core functions of the reformed regulator. It then explores the benefits and risks associated with both single and multiple regulatory models and the functions that would need to be centralised to achieve the aims of the reform and improve the functioning of the current system. An overarching committee acting as a single point of contact would improve visibility and ease of engagement with the accountable person. A key finding is that regardless of whether a single or multiple regulator is pursued, additional capacity will be needed to perform the necessary functions.

Lastly, the report identifies key enforcement and sanction themes. These include using enforcement and sanctions to foster behavioural change, options for funding enforcement and sanctions models, and the effectiveness of different methods of enforcement and sanctions. Enforcement and sanctions are only one part of the ‘toolkit’ needed to address noncompliance with building safety regulations in Wales.