Planning for a safer future: Fire Safety in the planning system

01 Sep 21

The issue of fire safety has rarely been far from the news since the Grenfell Tower tragedy in June 2017. Politicians, developers and residents of the numerous existing developments found to be unsafe have been wrestling with the challenges and complexities posed in adjusting to the subsequent legislation.

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The issue of fire safety has rarely been far from the news since the Grenfell Tower tragedy in June 2017. Politicians, developers and residents of the numerous existing developments found to be unsafe have been wrestling with the challenges and complexities posed in adjusting to the subsequent legislation.

Understandably, this has led to a number of changes within planning regulations and policy to address future development, most notably through the Government’s new Building Safety Bill which was introduced in July 2021. This brings forward new requirements into the planning process which seek to ensure fire safety matters are addressed at the planning stage for schemes involving all relevant high-rise buildings in England and Wales.

From 1st August 2021, these obligations, known as ‘Planning Gateway One’, have been added to Planning Practice Guidance. Two new key elements have been introduced for developers to consider:

i) The submission of a Fire Statement, setting out fire safety considerations specific to the development; and
ii) Establishing the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) as a statutory consultee for all relevant planning applications

These requirements apply to developments which contain either two or more residential dwellings or educational accommodation, and which exceed 18 metres or seven storeys in height.

Furthermore, these requirements have been incorporated into Permitted Development Rights, which have also been subject to changes on 1st August. Applications under the new Class MA of Part 3 – Class E to Residential conversion, which replaced the former Class O rights for office to residential conversions – will be required, under the prior approval process, to submit a Fire Statement, with the HSE consulted by the Local Planning Authority. The same applies to applications for upward extensions, under Use Class A and AA of Part 20 of the regulations.

Additionally, for developments within the capital, the New London Plan adopted in March 2021 includes a significantly more in-depth policy approach to fire safety than in the previous iteration, broadly reflecting the emerging legislative changes. Policy D12 requires all new major developments to submit a Fire Statement, independently produced by a qualified assessor, to demonstrate the suitability of building materials proposed, means of escape, safety measures and access for fire service personnel.

Iceni are currently advising on several schemes involving these new fire safety requirements. If you would like to discuss what this means for you, please do not hesitate to get in touch.