About the Campaign|
“An over-zealous and, in some cases, a
disproportionate approach by some fire safety officers
may be damaging both the [tourism] sector itself and
the reputation of the Fire and Rescue Service”.
Parmjit Dhanda MP
Fire Safety Minister (until 5th October 2008)
The above admission by the previous Fire Safety Minister himself sums up the problem very well. Unfortunately the "damage" continues every day, however: the Fire Safety SENSE Campaign is aimed at persuading the Government to take urgent action to rectify the situation. It has now been two years since the legislation came into force.
The Campaign brings together a wide range of organisations and individuals, representing over 460,000 small businesses and households across the UK, who all share strong concerns about the way the new fire regulations are being interpreted and enforced by the many Fire & Rescue Services throughout the UK.
The problem is that the interpretation and enforcement of the regulations is proving inconsistent and often disproportionate, imposing unsustainable burdens on very small businesses based in domestic premises - for example, small B&Bs, householders renting a room in their home, or families accommodating a foreign student or providing "homestay" accommodation in support of a local festival or sporting event (who is affected?).
Even before the 2006 regulations came in, concerns were expressed by various trade associations to the Government that is was a "consultant's charter", and that without clear guidelines on enforcement there could be problems of inconsistency, and nothing to stop homes and small premises being treated onerously as the various local fire departments each tried to interpret the new regulations, and change their mindset from a prescriptive regime to the new risk-based self-assessment regime.
Unfortunately, it is all too clear (see the B&B Case studies, for example) that this has indeed become a serious problem.
VisitBritain, the British Hospitality Association (BHA), the Bed & Breakfast Association, Southwest Tourism, Farm Stay UK, the BII, EASCO, the Tourism Alliance and many other organisations have lobbied the Government's 'Department for Communities and Local Government' (DCLG), which is responsible for fire safety - and many meetings have been held.
Other parts of the Government, especially DCMS, the department responsible for tourism, have expressed concern at the situation.
DCLG have admitted that there is indeed a problem - but on 12 August 2008, in a letter to four trade associations, the Fire Safety Minister Parmjit Dhanda MP declined their appeal to him to issue departmental guidance to all the Fire & Rescue Authorities to ensure consistency and proportionality. He stated that "common-sense" was the key - without explaining how "common-sense" would be brought to prevail in the enforcement of the RRFSO by each individual Fire & Rescue Authority. The Minister confirmed this decision in a letter on 2nd October.
The damage continues every day, however - so a group of organisations representing many thousands of the affected premises owners came together and agreed to start a Campaign aimed at engaging public support and demonstrating to the Government the breadth and strength of feeling about the damage being done - and the urgent need for action.
Hence the Fire Safety SENSE Campaign.
If you agree with the Campaign's aims, go to our 'what you can do' page.
Read the comments made so far to us.
For Scotland, click here.