Supply chain warning over building safety deadline

A trade body has warned that the government’s deadline for developers to commit to fixing unsafe towers could lead to “conflict and costs” as pressures are passed down the construction supply chain.

In a letter to developers, levelling up secretary Michael Gove has given a six-week ultimatum to sign up to a new contract to fix historic safety defects or face being banned from new construction work.

Commenting on the impact of the contract, Finishes & Interiors Sector (FIS) chief executive Iain McIlwee said: “This letter is a significant moment for construction and, while it is optimistic that the weight has rightly been lifted from the leaseholder, it darkens the shadow that hangs over the construction sector.

Last year, 49 developers signed a public pledge to do the right thing to protect leaseholders and residents. The new contract will make those commitments legally binding.

The contract will require developers to take responsibility for all necessary work to address life-critical fire-safety defects arising from the design and construction of buildings 11 metres or more in height that they developed or refurbished over the last 30 years in England.

The FIS chief executive highlighted that the government has recognised that the knock-on consequences of retrospective regulation in the construction sector could mean that onerous contracts are foisted on sub-contractors, transferring the legal risk of non-compliance onto the supply chain.

“The Building Safety Act is undoubtedly a force for the long-term good, but to truly support transformation in the shorter term, it needs to be mirrored by a tightening of the Construction Act and some protection to SMEs in the supply chain,“ he said.

“My fear now is that this opens the door to conflict and cost – adversarial behaviours will undermine change and resources that would be better expended on transformation and putting right mistakes of the past will be wasted.”