Welsh Government announce combustible cladding ban on high-rise buildings

The Welsh Government have announced the use of combustible cladding on high-rise buildings will be banned in January 2020.

The Housing Minister Julie James has made the announcement in reaction to the Grenfell Tower fire that killed 72 people in June 2017.

The ban will affect buildings 18m or taller in Wales.

The move has received some criticism from several organisations including the Fire Brigades Union (FBU). They say this is not "the outright ban on combustible cladding that firefighters have been calling for."

The new ban will apply to cladding on all new residential buildings and hospitals over 18m in height.

Housing Minister, Julie James, said: "Our homes should be the safest of places. The action I have taken today will help ensure we make people safer in their homes, and leaves no room for doubt as to what is suitable for use on external walls of relevant buildings 18m or more in height.

"We know there is still much more we need to do to ensure that there is greater clarity across the life cycle of a building as to the roles and responsibilities of those designing, constructing and managing buildings. I intend to publish a White Paper in 2020 setting out the detail of my plans".

Several tower blocks in Newport, Swansea and Cardiff failed fire safety tests in the wake of Grenfell. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Although in her statement the Housing Minister said there is still more that needs to be done, the FBU have said this current ban does not go far enough.

They want "more comprehensive action" and the ban to apply to all buildings without a minimum height of 18m.

The fire at Grenfell Tower killed 72 people. Credit: PA Images

The Royal Society of Architects in Wales have welcomed the ban but also said the minimum height of 18m should be reduced to include lower buildings.

The FBU want Credit: Michael Baumgartner/PA Images

Jane Duncan, Chair of the Royal Institute of British Architects' Expert Advisory Group on Fire Safety has also said that although "a step in the right direction", the ban should be extended to apply "to all buildings, including schools and hostels".

Following the Grenfell Tower fire, Dame Judith Hackitt carried out an independent review into building regulations and fire safety.

The review, published in 2018, recommended significant changes in the construction and design of residential buildings of 10-storeys or more.

As a result of this, Welsh Government made a commitment to ban the use of combustible cladding in high-rise residential buildings. We will now see this come into force on January 13 2020.

Seven tower blocks in Wales failed safety tests that were carried out in the immediate wake of the Grenfell fire. Four of the blocks were in Swansea and three in Newport.

Six blocks in Cardiff then failed further fire safety testing.

In May 2018, Welsh Government announced £3m for Newport to replace cladding on its tower blocks.