Changes in fire safety regime for developers of high-rise buildings from 1st August 2021


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Changes in fire safety regime for developers of high-rise buildings from 1st August 2021

Why is planning gateway one being introduced?

Planning gateway one is being introduced as part of the government’s commitment to delivering on Dame Judith Hackitt’s recommendations in relation to building and fire safety, following the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy in June 2017.

Dame Hackitt’s final report was published in 2018 and highlighted the need for an overhaul of the existing fire safety and building regulations regime. Following the report, the government have set out their commitment to bring about the “biggest change in building safety for a generation” and have confirmed they see the introduction of planning gateway one as a first step on the way to this reform. Changes to the planning regime with a new focus on fire safety for relevant buildings will therefore come into force on August 1st 2021 the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) have announced.

Key issues for the developer

The intention is to ensure that at the planning stage of the development process, fire safety matters are incorporated insofar as they relate to land use planning in relevant high-rise residential buildings (e.g., considering items such as site layout, water supplies for firefighting purposes and access for fire appliances.) This should result in better schemes which have fully integrated thinking on fire safety.

Any developer of a scheme containing a relevant high-rise building will need to consider fire safety matters as they relate to land use planning at the planning stage, bringing forward thinking on fire safety and showing that the planning application incorporates thinking on fire safety across the scheme.

There will be a formal role for the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) as a statutory consultee and the government advice to industry emphasises the importance of timely engagement between developers and statutory consultees in the pre application phase to address relevant matters early on. The planning authority will be required to consult the HSE as a statutory consultee and will also be required to consult them before granting planning permission. Specialist fire safety advice will be provided to local planning authorities on a statutory basis.

What is a “relevant building” and what must a fire statement contain?

Planning gateway one provides that every application for planning permission for a development which involves the provision of one or more buildings containing two or more dwellings, or educational accommodation, which is either 18 metres or over in height or 7 storeys high (a ‘relevant building) must be accompanied by a fire statement (unless a specific exemption applies).

This will apply to a new development or the development of an existing relevant building or development within the curtilage of a relevant building.

The fire statement must be on a form approved by the Secretary of State or set out the same details, and will provide focused and concise fire safety information as it relates to land use planning matters for the development, (e.g., layout, access, principles concept and approach that has been taken in respect of fire safety) and the intention is that the fire safety information provided will be proportionate to the scale type and complexity of the proposal.

Guidance from MHCLG makes clear that the intention of the fire statement is for the information to be relevant only as it relates to land use and planning and that it should not replicate the more detailed information to be submitted at building control stage.

Watch this space

The government consider planning gateway one as one of the first steps in a regime change that will transform the regulatory framework for fire safety and building regulations following the Grenfell Tower fire, and the Building Safety Bill was included in the Queen’s Speech in May of this year setting out the government’s further proposals to establish a new building safety regime. It is not yet clear when the provisions of the Building Safety Bill will become law but there is certainly much change in this area ahead.