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Betts call for ban on 'clearly dangerous' desktop studies

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The chair of the Commons’ housing, communities and local government committee has called on the government to ban the use of desktop studies in testing the fire safety of building materials used on high rise buildings.

Clive Betts (Lab) said in his first letter to the new communities secretary James Brokenshire that desktop studies, which use previous data to determine fire safety, are “clearly dangerous”.

Mr Betts wrote: “We are concerned that the over-use of desktop studies may be a contributory factor to a weaker, less stringent regulatory regime and increases the likelihood of dangerous materials being used on high-rise residential buildings.”

The previous communities secretary Sajid Javid launched a consultation on their use on 11 April after they were linked to the Grenfell fire.

Mr Javid said at the time: “We have listened carefully to Dame Judith Hackitt [who is leading a review into building regulations] and we are taking action to strengthen building regulations guidance, which could mean that the use of ‘desktop studies’ are either significantly restricted or banned altogether.”

However, the consultation did not include a specific reference to banning the use of desktop studies, just restrictions on them.

Current building regulations, specified in a 2015 technical guidance note from the Local Authority Building Control (LABC), allow for desktop studies as one of four ways to test fire safety.

Dame Judith told the CLG committee in December of her worries over their usage and the way they can be used to substitute materials.

“You can see how you can start to drift away from materials that were thoroughly tested and approved for use. Elsewhere in the report, you will see that we recommend a real, thorough look at how and when desktop reviews are allowed within the system,” Dame Hackitt said.

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