ARTICLE
11 April 2024

Building Safety: Amendments Confirm Second Staircase Threshold At 18 Metres

GW
Gowling WLG

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Gowling WLG is an international law firm built on the belief that the best way to serve clients is to be in tune with their world, aligned with their opportunity and ambitious for their success. Our 1,400+ legal professionals and support teams apply in-depth sector expertise to understand and support our clients’ businesses.
On 29 March 2024, the Government published amendments to Approved Document B (Fire Safety).
UK Real Estate and Construction
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On 29 March 2024, the Government published amendments to Approved Document B (Fire Safety).

The amendments confirm the long-awaited requirement for more than one common staircase to be provided in residential buildings of 18 metres plus.

This follows the announcement by Michael Gove in July 2023 that the Government would lower the proposed threshold for second staircases in new residential buildings in England from 30 metres to 18 metres.

Alongside this key amendment, the amendments to Approved Document B include design provisions to support the use of evacuation lifts in blocks of flats (although the inclusion of evacuation lifts has not been mandated as a matter of course). At this stage the amendments do not cover other issues that the Government also consulted on at the same time, such as sprinklers in care homes (of any height) and the removal of national classifications for construction products.

Transitional arrangements

As trailed by Michael Gove in October 2023, the 30-month transition window for implementation of the new requirements has also now been confirmed.

The guidance within the existing Approved Document B (2019 edition incorporating 2020 and 2022 amendments) can continue to be followed, where the following both apply:

  • A building notice, initial notice or building control approval application with full plans is given or made to the relevant building control authority by 30 September 2026;

    AND
  • Building work has started and "sufficiently progressed" before, or within the period of 18 months beginning on, 30 September 2026.
The definition of "sufficiently progressed" for these purposes is given the same meaning as for the transitional arrangements for the new building control regime for higher risk buildings. For the construction of a new building, works will be "sufficiently progressed" when either the pouring of concrete for the permanent placement of foundations or the permanent placement of piling has started.

Implications for developers

This update offers welcome clarity as to the timeframes and transitional arrangements that will apply to the much anticipated second staircase requirement (particularly where planning permission has been granted based on a single staircase solution), and the specific technical guidance that will be in place once that transition period ends.However, it is important to remember that:
  1. The number of staircases will not be determinative of a building's safety. A suitable design compliant with the wider requirements of building regulations will still be necessary;
  2. Any "higher risk buildings" that are not yet started or "sufficiently progressed" by 6th April 2024 will still need to pass through "Gateway 2" approval by the Building Safety Regulator (BSR) – demonstrating to the BSR that the design complies with the applicable building regulations - before any works can proceed; and
  3. During the transitional period for amended Approved Document B it remains open to developers to choose to apply the updated guidance, and many may choose to do so.

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ARTICLE
11 April 2024

Building Safety: Amendments Confirm Second Staircase Threshold At 18 Metres

UK Real Estate and Construction

Contributor

Gowling WLG is an international law firm built on the belief that the best way to serve clients is to be in tune with their world, aligned with their opportunity and ambitious for their success. Our 1,400+ legal professionals and support teams apply in-depth sector expertise to understand and support our clients’ businesses.
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