Tuesday 23 May 2023

How will 2nd staircase requirement for 30metre plus buildings impact on Brent's current pipeline?

 I have asked Brent Council Press Office to provide a quote from the Council on how the requirement for a second staircase for buildings over 30m high will impact on developments currently in the pipeline in Brent. The requirement follows recommendations made after the Grenfell fire.

From Fire Protection Association LINK

As reported by Building, property consultants Lambert Smith Hampton (LSH) and Connells have analysed that up to 124,000 new London homes could be greatly affected or delayed by new fire safety regulations – schemes that had been previously approved.

Following the government’s recent 12-week consultation on proposed changes to Approved Document B (ADB), in February 2023, London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced, that he would be going ahead with the requirement for two stairwells in new buildings that were over 30 metres in height.

During his announcement, he stipulated that the Greater London Authority would only sign off on high-rise building applications that included two stairwells. As LSH and Connells note, this means that a current pipeline of 243 buildings (accommodating 123,632 new homes) will have to be scrapped as new designs are submitted by developers. The property consultants added that the new requirements could lead to current applications being “under threat of significant delay, or even being completely mothballed”.

The head of planning at LSH, Mary-Jane O’Neill, explained: “Given the tragic circumstances that led to the revision of fire safety regulations, there are few plausible grounds on which to oppose their implementation. But all of us involved in the process of development do need to process their implications and come up with some pragmatic solutions as a priority.”

The decision for a secondary staircase follows calls for better life safety measures for residents of high-rise buildings by giving them another means of escape in the event of a fire. It can also mean that fire crews have more access to take firefighting equipment to higher storeys when alternative routes might not be feasible. The need for a second staircase was one of the recommendations set out by Dame Judith Hackitt in her independent review and has also been backed by RIBA. The London Fire Brigade welcomed Sadiq Khan's decision, with further bodies wondering whether the height threshold should be reduced to 18 metres instead of 30. At the time, Charlie Pugsley, Assistant Commissioner for Fire Safety, said:

Having pushed developers to include at least two staircases in tall residential buildings for some time, we support the government’s plans to bring in this clear limit for new buildings over 30m to further improve safety.

This introduction of a clear threshold will give clarity to developers, local authorities and communities and prevent the continued practice of increasingly tall buildings being designed and constructed with only a single staircase.”

The new London-wide mandate, however, is expected to impact several London boroughs and their promises for more housing. Indeed, Architects’ Journal reports that construction work has stopped at 10 new residential blocks between three and 16 storeys in the east London borough of Havering. The £450 million residential scheme expected to replace 270 homes with 380 homes has now been halted over the current uncertainty around second staircase requirements. Developer Wates Residential, alongside Havering Council, has stopped construction until the government gives more clarity and reaches a “decision on new building safety legislation regarding taller buildings”.

In a statement, the developer said: “Regulations are likely to change to require two staircases in buildings over 30m, so we have taken the decision to pause the development at this early point in the construction process until we have a better understanding of what the new regulations will mean.”

Mary-Jane added that while legislative updates to fire safety measures are still ongoing, “housebuilders are unlikely to go back to the drawing board on these schemes until there is much more clarity around the required design standards”. In the meantime, developers will have put their existing plans on hold. 

There is no silver bullet on the horizon that will unlock the uncertainty surrounding tall buildings,” she said.



David Walton said...

The new one staircase housing towers of London (two staircases means less flats for developers to sell) are likely to become catagorised unsafe unmortgageable especially if a Grenfell 2 happened.

Anonymous said...

I used to work on 7th floor of a large office block in Central London - during fire drills we had to walk down the stairs - it was scary knowing there a 5 floors of people above us trying to get out of the building too - the pressure to keep moving was immense, this was before Grenfell.

Hate to think what it would have been like in the true panic of a real fire!

Bet developers, planners and councillors wouldn't live in tower blocks :(