Government considering extension on combustible materials ban

“UK policy makers are consulting whether to extend ban on combustible materials to buildings under 18m – but is it justified?”

Ever since the tragedy of the Grenfell fire, the British public has been focused on fire safety in residential buildings. This is quite right – we should all be passionate and proactive when it comes to saving lives that need not be lost. The disaster caused a re-evaluation of safety laws. Now, in its latest update, the government is considering extending its ban on combustible materials “in and on” exterior new residential building walls lower than the current threshold of 18 metres high.

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick says that a number of recent fires in buildings under 18 metres tall (such as the Cube in Bolton) have prompted this review. However, the government admits that it has no proof that extending the restrictions to buildings below 18 metres will have any impact on safety. That’s a situation that the housing secretary hopes to remedy, as plans have been put in motion for a significant new research plan that will examine a number of things (including height) to do with fire safety in residential properties. But the government likely won’t wait for it before implementing these new restrictions.

According to a comment from the Ministry of Housing, Communities, & Local Government: “The ban of combustible materials in the external walls of buildings currently includes all materials within the external wall and specified attachments – this includes balconies and solar panels. Structural timber elements are currently not exempted from the requirements of the ban. The consultation does ask for views on what additional materials should be exempted from the requirements of the ban.

The Timber Trade Federation is planning to submit a response to this move in late February, while TRADA said that the timber industry had to be “very careful” as to how it enters the debate, adding:

“The document itself is quite explicit in paragraphs 28 and 31 in stating that there is no clear scientific or research-based evidence to support the government’s proposal. If we deviate from a philosophical approach that is built on the foundations of arguments backed up with evidence and logic – which is what is being proposed – we are going to find it very difficult to progress in an orderly manner with this consultation.”

The consultation documents are available to view on, and the deadline for responses is April 13.