Housing regulator the Tenant Services Authority has backed one of the key demands of Inside Housing’s Safe as Houses campaign.
Its chief executive, Peter Marsh, has agreed in principle to create a national register of tower blocks. Inside Housing has campaigned for the TSA to set up and maintain a database of high-rises since a fire killed six people in a Camberwell block, Lakanal House, earlier this year.
Research carried out by Inside Housing since the blaze, on 3 July, revealed that many social landlords had not carried out fire risk assessments for all of their tower blocks. Four had carried out none. It is a requirement for them to do so under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2003, which came into force in October 2006.
Phil Morgan, executive director for tenant services at the TSA, said Inside Housing’s campaign had persuaded the authority to look at setting up a register of tower blocks in social housing. The register would initially contain details of housing associations, but the intention is to extend it to councils and arm’s-length management organisations when the TSA begins regulating them next April.
Mr Morgan said:’Having a register is a way of capturing [health and safety] issues and identifying whether there are things that need to happen.’
Following the Camberwell fire, the TSA wrote to all housing associations about the issues it raised. The fire spread through the block more quickly than expected.
Every landlord with more than 1,000 homes has now replied to the TSA letting it know whether they have similar-style blocks. The authority is working with nine landlords which think they do and four more who aren’t sure, to see if work is needed.
It is also working with the fire service and plans to set up events for landlords to highlight lessons learned from the Camberwell fire, next year.
Sam Webb, the architect who investigated the collapse of Ronan Point tower block in Newham, east London, in 1968, has long been calling for a national register of blocks. He said the TSA’s support was good news but that any register should include the block’s design-type and the date it was built.
See our campaign page for more on Safe as Houses.