Gove’s Statement on the Building Safety Act
Added on October 25th, 2023
Category FDS News
By Bijan Fard
The current administration is dedicated to ensuring public confidence in the safety of our buildings. The introduction of the Building Safety Act has established a robust regulatory framework, with a central focus on the new Building Safety Regulator. Recent changes to statutory fire safety guidelines include the following measures:
• Prohibition of combustible materials in residential buildings, hotels, hospitals, and student accommodations over 18m, with additional directives for residential buildings between 11m and 18m.
• Lowering the threshold for the installation of sprinkler systems in new apartment blocks from 30m to 11m.
• Mandating the inclusion of wayfinding signage for firefighters in residential buildings above 11m.
• Requiring Evacuation Alert Systems for residential buildings over 18m and Secure Information Boxes (SIB) for new residential buildings over 11m.
In July, Michael Gove, the secretary of state for levelling up, housing & communities, announced his intention to introduce new guidelines necessitating second staircases in new residential buildings in England over 18m. This decision aligns with recommendations from experts such as the National Fire Chiefs Council and the Royal Institute of British Architects and brings England in line with other countries like Hong Kong and the UAE, which have similar requirements.
Gove outlined the planned transitional arrangements accompanying this modification to the Approved Document B. Developers will have 30 months to conform to either the current guidance or the updated guidance requiring second staircases, after the official publication and confirmation of these changes. After this period, all applications must adhere to the new guidance.
Projects that have already obtained planning permission with a single staircase will not be affected by this change, allowing them to proceed without delay if they choose. However, they will have 18 months from the date of the new guidance to start construction. If they do not begin construction within this period, they will have to submit a new building regulations application in line with the new guidance. The government emphasizes that existing and upcoming single-staircase buildings, when constructed and managed in compliance with relevant standards, are not inherently unsafe and will not need to retrofit a second staircase later. The authorities expect lenders, managing agents, insurers, and others to avoid imposing unnecessary additional requirements or obstacles on single-staircase buildings in lending, pricing, management, or any other aspect.
Residents of new buildings exceeding 18m can be assured that these structures are already subject to additional scrutiny under the enhanced building safety regime. Their fire safety arrangements undergo detailed examination at the new building control gateways and planning gateway one.
Acknowledging the anticipation in the market for the design specifics that will be included in the Approved Document B, the Building Safety Regulator is working swiftly to finalise these details. In the interim, the announcement of the planned transitional arrangements aims to instill confidence in the market to continue constructing the high-quality homes necessary for the country.