24 Nov, 2023

Ensuring the safety of our buildings remains a top priority for the government. The recent implementation of the Building Safety Act signifies a substantial commitment, establishing a robust framework with the Building Safety Regulator at its core. In a continuous effort to enhance fire safety, statutory guidance has evolved, introducing key measures such as:

  • A ban on combustible materials for residential buildings, hotels, hospitals, and student accommodation above 18m.
  • Additional guidance for residential buildings between 11m-18m, including the requirement for sprinklers in new blocks of flats from 30m to 11m.
  • A mandate for wayfinding signage for firefighters in residential buildings above 11m.
  • Implementation of an Evacuation Alert System for residential buildings over 18m and a Secure Information Box (SIB) for new residential buildings over 11m.

Safety protocols must remain dynamic, and to that end, we have confirmed the intention to introduce new guidance mandating second staircases in new residential buildings in England above 18m. This decision aligns with expert recommendations from organizations like the National Fire Chiefs Council and the Royal Institute of British Architects, bringing us in line with global standards set by countries such as Hong Kong and the UAE.

Today, we are pleased to unveil the intended transitional arrangements accompanying this amendment to Approved Document B. Upon the formal publication and confirmation of these changes, developers will have a 30-month window to choose between adhering to the existing guidance or adopting the updated guidance with the requirement for second staircases. After this transitional period, all applications must conform to the new guidance.

Approved applications not aligning with the new guidance will have 18 months to commence construction. Failure to initiate construction within this timeframe will necessitate a new building regulations application following the updated guidance.

Importantly, projects with existing planning permissions featuring a single staircase, assessed for safety during the application process, can proceed without delay within these transitional arrangements. It is crucial to emphasise that buildings with a single staircase, when constructed according to relevant standards, well-maintained, and properly managed, are not inherently unsafe. We expect stakeholders, including lenders, managing agents, insurers, and others, to refrain from imposing undue requirements on these buildings.

For residents of buildings over 18m, rest assured that they are already subject to enhanced scrutiny under the new building safety regime. Fire-safety arrangements undergo detailed examination at the new building control gateways and planning gateway one.

While awaiting the design details for Approved Document B, rest assured that the Building Safety Regulator is working diligently to finalize them. We anticipate making a further announcement soon. In the interim, we are confident that these intended transitional arrangements will provide the market with the confidence to continue constructing the high-quality homes our country needs.