Staircases in tall buildings – Planning Implications


Residential Buildings in England

On 23 December 2022 the Government published a consultation document on amendments to Approved Document B which gives guidance on how to meet the requirements of the Building Regulations.

The consultation proposed that all residential buildings over a particular threshold (currently proposed at 30 m) should be designed and built with a second staircase.

A "very short" transition, which would allow time for schemes to be completed but not allow new developments to start, is proposed (although we don't know how short yet).  The consultation ends on 17 March 2023.

The Government is encouraging developers to prepare for this change now.

The proposed change means that even if a building has planning permission with one staircase, it will not pass Building Regulations which may require two staircases.

The solution is to ensure that any planning permission for a residential building of over that particular height (currently 30 m) includes two staircases in the building.

If these proposals come into force then changes may be required to a consented scheme to enable it to be built.  If a consented residential building currently has one staircase, a non-material amendment to the planning permission may be possible.  If this cannot be done then a section 73 application may be required (if that is possible).  If a section 73 is not possible then a new permission may be required.

Going forward, care will need to be taken to ensure that all residential buildings over the threshold (currently proposed at 30 m) have planning permission for a design which includes two staircases.

Residential Buildings in London

The National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) say that the limit should be 18 m or 7 storeys.  The Mayor of London is leaning towards following the NFCC position.  The Mayor of London has no powers to alter Building Regulations and so may seek to change the London Plan instead.

The office of the Mayor is due to have discussions on this issue with the Government but we understand that the office of the Mayor has decided that where proposals are for an 18 m plus high residential building they will not take a scheme through to stage 2 sign off unless there is more than one staircase.

Stage 2 sign off is the stage at which a planning permission which has been provisionally approved by a local council is approved by the Mayor prior to permission being issued.

If this becomes part of the London Plan it can be assumed that no residential buildings above 18 m with a single staircase will get planning permission (in London) unless a material consideration indicates otherwise.

The Consultation closes on 17th March 2023.For full details , see here.

If you would like further information please contact

Jade Chalmers

or Bob Sadler

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