Call grows for bolder 18m second staircase rule for flats

The Government went out to industry consultation late last year on its plan to force developers to design in second staircases in all new housing blocks rising to around 10 storeys (30m) and above.

In advance of the new rule being introduced, the Mayor of London has adopted the 30m rule, forcing many schemes back to the drawing board for a complete redesign.

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said the extra fire safety measure at 30m could cost developers around £1.6bn over a decade.

Yesterday, the Royal Institute of British Architects wrote to Michael Gove, Secretary for the Department for Levelling up, Housing and Communities.

The letter, signed by eight organisations representing the built environment sector, fire safety and disability rights, urges him to reduce the proposed 30m height threshold for an additional staircase in new residential buildings.   

We are calling on government to reduce the height threshold for more than one staircase to 18 metres – implementing what we believe to be best practice, improving safety for occupants, and harmonising standards with the wider regulatory environment. This would also align with rules in Scotland, where an additional staircase from 18 metres has been required for four years. 

The letter was signed by: 

  • Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)
  • Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)
  • Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB)
  • National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC)
  • Housing Learning and Improvement Network (Housing LIN)
  • Disability Rights UK
  • Inclusion London
  • Claddag (Leaseholder Disability Action Group)

RIBA President Simon Allford said:  “Five years have passed since the fire at Grenfell Tower, and still we must make the case and take bolder action to help prevent further avoidable tragedies.

“Decisive action to make buildings as safe as is reasonably possible is long overdue. We urge the Government to improve fire safety standards – and clarity on appropriate staircase design and provision is essential. 

“We know that greater numbers of people are evacuating rather than ‘staying put’ during fire incidents post-Grenfell and we must ensure occupants have access to a safe, smoke-free evacuation route. 

“The Government’s current proposal fails to address our shared concerns. We stand ready to support government action on addressing all our concerns.” 

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