Buildings over 30m in London to have mandatory second staircases, says Mayor of London

Peninsula Team

March 16 2023

Planning applications for new buildings over 30m must now have second staircases before they can be approved, the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has announced.

The new measures will apply to Greater London Authority (GLA) area, with immediate effect. An official consultation process is still in progress, proposing this measure to apply to all of the UK, but the GLA has pressed ahead without waiting for the results.

GLA will now work with London councils to ensure applications currently in progress can meet the new requirements. Any buildings over 30m with only one staircase will still be eligible if they were approved before 23 December 2022.

“The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan,” the GLA states, “is committed to ensuring the Inquiry’s recommendations for the London Fire Brigade are implemented, and to hold to account those responsible for putting the remaining recommendations into practice.

They also 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.”

Many industry figureheads have called for the measures to go further. The National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) took the position that the measures should apply to any new residential buildings over 18m (or at least seven storeys):

“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.”

Joining this call, the Chartered Institute of Housing also supports the 18m height for mandating second staircases on high-rise buildings. It said in a statement:

“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.”

Those responsible for high-rise residential buildings will be required to register with the new Building Safety Regulator from April 2023, which aims to ensure buildings are safe for residents and users.

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