London mayor presses ahead to mandate second staircases for new buildings over 30 metres

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has implemented new measures for planning applications in the Greater London Authority (GLA) area, where new buildings over 30 metres must have second staircases before they will be approved. The fire safety measures have been brought in with immediate effect by the GLA planning department.

Under current planning laws in England, buildings only require a single staircase, though there is currently a consultation in process which includes proposals for residential buildings above 30 metres to require two staircases.

The GLA has effectively pressed forward without waiting for the results of the consultation, and says it will work with London councils to ensure schemes in the pipeline can meet the requirements. Buildings with only one staircase approved before 23 December 2022 remain eligible.

The GLA planning department said: “The mayor has consistently expressed concerns that the fire safety requirements in the national Building Regulations are not fit for purpose, so the proposed strengthened requirements and clear direction at the national level are strongly supported.”

Despite this move, many consider the measures to not go far enough. In December, the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) called for any new residential building over 18 metres (or at least seven storeys) to have more than one staircase in. Its position statement noted:
“Multiple protected staircases create more resilience to support evacuation and firefighting operations. The need for unambiguous guidance is particularly important given the clear problem with culture and competency identified across the design and construction industry since the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy.”

The Chartered Institute of Housing has called for the same, having published its response to the ongoing consultation outlining its belief that 18 metres should be the height at which second staircases should be implemented.

It said: “It has been clear from the findings of the Grenfell Tower inquiry that relying on a stay put policy in high-rise buildings carries significant risk. Even though requirements of the new building safety regime should mean that building owners more regularly assess the components of the building which are designed to prevent fire spread (fire doors, compartmentation features etc.), there will still be a risk that these features become compromised. In these circumstances, during a fire it may be necessary to move from the stay put policy to an emergency evacuation. Tall buildings should be designed to allow safe evacuation, which should include the provision of a second staircase.”

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