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Government publishes guidance on Planning Gateway One for fire practitioners
05 July 2021
MEASURES DESIGNED to ensure that matters relating to fire safety are incorporated at the planning stage for schemes involving a relevant high-rise residential building have been outlined by the Government in new guidance.
Following the Grenfell Tower fire on 14 June 2017, the Government commissioned the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety led by Dame Judith Hackitt. The ensuing report highlighted the need to “transform” the fire and building safety regime with the recommendation that: “Some minimum requirements around fire safety will need to be addressed when local planning authorities are determining planning applications and will require input from those with the relevant expertise.”
Government made a commitment in ‘A Reformed Building Safety Regulatory System: Government Response to the ‘Building a Safer Future’ Consultation’ to introduce Planning Gateway One. This has two key elements:
*to require the developer to submit a fire statement setting out fire safety considerations specific to the development with a relevant application for planning permission for development which involves one or more relevant buildings
*to establish the Health and Safety Executive as a statutory consultee for relevant planning applications
The changes are intended to help ensure that applicants and decision-makers consider planning issues relevant to fire safety, bringing forward thinking on fire safety matters as they relate to land use planning to the earliest possible stage in the development process and thereby result in better schemes which fully integrate thinking on fire safety.
What type of buildings are “relevant buildings” under Planning Gateway One? Relevant buildings contain two or more dwellings or educational accommodation and meet the height condition of 18 metres or more in height (or seven or more storeys).
“Dwellings” includes flats and “educational accommodation” means residential accommodation for the use of students boarding at a boarding school or in those in the later stages of education. It may be necessary to amend the provisions in future to align with arrangements to be made under the Building Safety Bill.
In this context:
*the top storey of the building being 18 metres or more in height should be determined ignoring any storey which is a roof-top machinery or plant area or consists exclusively of machinery or plant rooms and should be measured from the ground level on the lowest side of a building to the top storey upper floor surface
*the building containing seven or more storeys should be determined ignoring any storey which is below ground level (a storey is treated as below ground level if any part of the finished surface of the ceiling of the storey is below the ground level immediately adjacent to that part of the building) and counted from the ground level on the lowest side of the building
*a mezzanine counts as a separate storey if its internal floor area is at least 50% of the internal floor area of the largest storey in the building which is not below ground level
What’s the purpose of a fire statement? Fire statements will support the consideration of information on fire safety matters as they relate to land use planning matters (eg site layout, water supplies for firefighting purposes and access for fire appliances). It’s always the intention that the information provided within a fire statement is focused and concise, specific and relevant to the development and proportionate to the scale, type and complexity of the proposal.
A fire statement will evidence the fact that thinking on fire safety matters, as they relate to planning, has been incorporated into the planning application.
What information must a fire statement contain? Fire statements must be submitted on a form published by the Secretary of State (or a form to similar effect) and contain the particulars specified or referred to in the form, which includes information about elements such as:
*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)
*how any policies relating to fire safety in relevant local development documents have been taken into account
The publication of a standard form for this purpose is intended to ensure consistency in the way in which information is provided, as well as ensuring that all information contained within a fire statement is focused on fire safety matters as they relate to land use planning.
As many fire safety matters relevant to land use planning impact the external layout of a site (including the spaces between buildings), fire statements will be required to include information on the entire development as set out on the plan which identifies the land to which the application relates and which has to be submitted with the application.
The fire safety matters contained in a fire statement are relevant only to the extent that they’re relevant to land use planning. The level of detail and focus of information should not contain the breadth and depth of information on fire safety which will be submitted at building control application stage. Requirements of the fire statement at planning stage will not duplicate or require compliance with the Building Regulations or the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. Local planning authorities will not be responsible for any Building Regulations’-related matters or the enforcement of building control requirements.
Fire statement and applications
In what circumstances must a fire statement by submitted with an application?
An application for planning permission for development which involves:
*the provision of one or more relevant buildings or…
*the development of an existing relevant building or…
*the development within the curtilage of a relevant building
must be accompanied by a fire statement unless an exemption applies.
What are the exemptions to the requirement to submit a fire statement with an application for permission? Applications for planning permission will be exempt from the requirement to submit a fire statement where:
*the application is for a material change in use of a relevant building and the material change of use would result in the building no longer being a relevant building
*the application is for a material change in use of land or buildings within the curtilage of a relevant building and the material change of use would not result in the provision of one or more relevant buildings
*the application is for outline planning permission
*the application is for permission to develop land without compliance with conditions under Section 73 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990
Applications for outline planning permission will be exempt from the requirement to submit a fire statement because matters such as layout and scale can be reserved.
*Further information and detail can be found on the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government website