Fire and Rescue Service and Building Control: Achieving Consensus
Following feedback from the Government’s Fire Safety Consultation, a new process has been established to assist fire and rescue services and building control bodies with reaching a joint conclusion when assessing the compliance of building plans.
Why has the new process been created?
There is a statutory requirement for building control to consult with the fire authority on build or refurbishment works if the intended use of the building meets criteria covered by the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order e.g, most non-domestic properties.
This consultation is a crucial step in determining the fire safety of a building and is therefore generally carried out within a statutory time frame of 15 working days. This is to prevent the need for any extra building work to be carried out after completion should any issues be identified during the consultation process.
Occasionally, there are instances where building control bodies and fire and rescue services do not reach an agreement on whether a design achieves suitable fire safety, potentially causing significant delays and uncertainty in the construction and design process.
‘Achieving Consensus’ is a new three-stage process which has been created collaboratively by a number of relevant official bodies, with the aim of reaching a resolution if consensus was not achieved in the initial consultation. The process aims to operate in a timely manner to minimise the impact on the client and on construction timescales as much as possible.
What does the ‘Achieving Consensus’ process involve?
The process recognises the importance of building control bodies and fire and rescue services being the main decision makers, as they are the best informed in terms of the Building Regulations and Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order (the FSO).
Therefore, the process gives both parties an opportunity to access further guidance and explore any concerns in more detail with their relevant representative bodies, as opposed to any formal intervention by external organisations.
The three-stage framework is set out below:
Stage 1 – Peer Review Process
This is an informal review with a representative from the relevant body – an application form and a brief explanation of issues are submitted by one or both parties. All affected applicants are to be kept informed of the progress of the application.
Fire and Rescue Service – National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC); Local Authority Building Control – LABC; Approved Inspectors – ACAI
Stage 2 – Informal Review referred to ‘Consensus Panel’
If the parties decide to proceed to Stage 2, the issues, along with supporting evidence, will be referred to a panel made up from a representative from each of the bodies above.
Stage 3 – Formal Review referred to ‘Consensus Panel’
If the parties are not satisfied that the issues were adequately explored and wish to submit further evidence, they can proceed to Stage 3, where a panel of 6 representatives, equally represented from the bodies above, will meet formally with the parties to assess all the information submitted and reach a final recommendation.
For more information on the Consensus Reaching Process, timescales and associated fees, and to see the application forms for each of the above stages, please refer to the guidance at … gov.uk