COUNCIL chiefs say powers to enforce building regulations need to be given more teeth, one year on from the Grenfell disaster.

Middlesbrough Borough Council told The Northern Echo that safety laws needed to be tightened up and councils given greater control when it comes to policing them.

The authority set up a ‘Task and Finish’ group following the tower fire which surveyed all buildings in the town over four stories in height – 255 in total – in a bid to ensure that all necessary measures were in place to minimise the possibility of an event like Grenfell.

Twenty nine buildings were identified for further investigation but although none were deemed to be fire safety risks, eight owners failed to respond to a series of questions which sought to establish whether they had up-to-date fire risk assessments, among other details.

Because the council had no statutory obligations with regards to the buildings it was not able to enforce that information was supplied.

Councillor Lewis Young, Middlesbrough Council’s executive member for economic development and infrastructure, who chaired the group, said: “Our firm belief is that local authorities should be solely responsible for building regulations and that these regulatory powers need to be given more teeth.”

The council also worked with Cleveland Fire Service, which carried out visits to purpose built high rise flats on a ‘risk based approach’.

It provided offers of general home safety checks for occupants, carried out additional operational familiarisation visits for local fire fighters and considered the need for new fire safety inspections or assurance of those recently carried out.

Separately, potentially combustible cladding was removed from the Kennedy Gardens residential tower block in Billingham, owned by social housing provider Thirteen, which is now due to be replaced. 

Cladding was also removed from tower blocks in Sunderland and Newcastle.

Your Homes Newcastle, which manages 26,700 council homes on behalf of the council in the city, said Tyne and Wear Rescue Service inspected its multi-storey blocks last summer and they were among the safest in the country, while hundreds of home safety checks had been carried out.

A Darlington Borough Council spokesman said: “Although Darlington does not have any high rise residential properties, we recently had the condition of our housing stock assessed by an independent specialist.

“This did not highlight any areas of concern.”

Stuart Timmiss, head of planning and assets at Durham County Council, said: “There has been no specific policy changes, primarily as we no longer provide social housing directly and we do not have any high rise residential accommodation.

"However we have established that where aluminium composite material cladding [the type used at Grenfell] was present on any other buildings, this complied with fire regulations and required specifications.”