FIRE SAFETY IN PLANNING
Historically, fire safety has always been a matter of Building Regulations (Part B); however, in light of the tragedy at Grenfell Tower in June 2017 the role of fire safety in planning has been changing. We are now beginning to see policies being introduced at both a local and national level.
The new London Plan was finally adopted in March 2021 and saw the introduction of two new policies relating to fire safety: Policy D5 (Inclusive Design) and Policy D12 (Fire Safety). The aim of these policies is to address fire safety at the planning application stage, rather than waiting until the Building Regs application, by which point many of the designs have already been determined.
Policy D5 sets the design requirements for new development in order to achieve good and inclusive design. Part B.5 of this policy requires development to incorporate robust emergency evacuation into the design of a building. It also sets the requirement of at least one fire evacuation lift per core to be incorporated.
Policy D12 specifically relates to fire safety and sets the requirements for all development to achieve the highest standards of fire safety. For instance, incorporating items such as evacuation assembly points, means of escape, high quality construction and suitable access for emergency vehicles. Part B also sets the requirement for all major developments within London to be accompanied by a Fire Statement.
We are aware of fire safety policies being introduced in the emerging plans of London Boroughs such as Barnet, City of London, Kingston upon Thames, Lambeth, Lewisham, Newham and Wandsworth. Most of them referencing compliance to the London Plan or setting the requirement for a Fire Statement to be submitted in support of major applications. Tower Hamlets, Hillingdon and Waltham Forest have already introduced the validation requirement of a Fire Statement for all major applications. The adoption of the London Plan has now set this as a requirement across all London Borough’s.
Fire safety measures within the planning system are now being introduced nationally. On the 24 June 2021 a new chapter was added to the National Planning Policy Guidance titled Fire Safety and High-Rise Residential Buildings. The new chapter requires all high-rise residential buildings to go through a new planning stage, called ‘planning gateway one’. Measures introduced include statutory consultation with the Health and Safety Executive and the submission of a Fire Statement. This new legislation is only relevant to buildings that contain two or more dwellings or educational accommodation and are 18m or more in height or 7 or more storeys. The legislation is due to come into effect from the 01 August 2021. A link to the new chapter can be found here.
Finally, we have also seen the introduction of fire safety regulations within the new Permitted Development Rights for vertical extensions, which were introduced last year. The new PD Rights allow for the “works for the construction of appropriate and safe access to and egress from the new and existing dwelling houses, including means of escape from fire via additional external doors or staircases”. On the 30 December 2020, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government sent a guidance letter to Local Planning Authorities setting a new requirement for vertical extensions under Part 20, Class A and Class AA to meet. Any application seeking prior approval under those classes and if the existing building is 18m or more in height, must now provide a report from a qualified professional confirming that the external wall construction of the existing building complies with Building Regulations 2010. A link to the letter can be found here.
So what is a Fire Statement?
A Fire Statement is a standalone document, which should be produced by a third party, independent and suitably qualified assessor, such as a chartered engineer registered with the Engineering Council by the Institute of Fire Engineers. The Secretary of State has published a template for a Fire Statement and the following information is required to be provided:
- The principles, concepts and approach relating to fire safety that have been applied to each building in the development;
- The site layout;
- Emergency vehicle access and water supplies for firefighting purposes;
- What, if any, consultation has been undertaken on issues relating to the fire safety of the development; and what account has been taken of this; and
- How any policies relating to fire safety in relevant local development documents have been taken into account.
Major applications within London will be required to provide further information within a Fire Statement than required within the NPPG. Further guidance on what should be included can be found in the draft GLA Fire Statement document, which is currently being prepared in consultation with the London Fire Brigade. The GLA are also in the process of producing a number of guidance documents relating to fire safety, which are both set to be consulted on in late 2021. A link to the GLA guidance can be found here.
Authored by Georgia Goff, Planner.