Michael Gove the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, and Minister for Intergovernmental Relations (SOS) gave a written ministerial statement (WMS) to the House of Commons on 24 October 2023.
The WMS set out the transitional arrangements which will apply to the introduction of the requirement for a second staircase in residential buildings of over 18 m into building regulations.
The transitional arrangements all start on the date when they publish and confirm the changes to Approved Document B. We don't know when that will be, so there is still a degree of uncertainty.
What are the transitional arrangements?
- For 30 months applications for building regulations will not require a second staircase in residential buildings above 18 m. At the end of that 30 month period, all applications will have to conform to the new standards.
- Any approved application which is for a residential building above 18 m (with only one staircase) will then have 18 months for construction to get underway in earnest. The WMS says that "the pouring of concrete for either the permanent placement of trench, pad or raft foundations or for the permanent placement of piling" would satisfy this.
So if your building is over 18 m, has a single staircase and is partially or wholly residential you have 30 months to apply for building regulations approval and then 18 months to get underway "in earnest".
This will catch lots of extant planning permissions for developments which include residential buildings of above 18 m with only one staircase. It will also be the case that with phased planning permissions, an earlier phase could benefit from the transitional provisions but a later phase may not.
The SOS makes it clear that existing buildings that were lawful when constructed will not need to have a second staircase added. However, if the building becomes more than 18 m tall due to additional works it is possible that the need for a second staircase would be triggered.
Care will need to be taken and developers need to consider the timelines, but we still don't know when the clock will start ticking.
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