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London Fire Brigade supports Government’s dual staircase proposals

20 March 2023

THE LONDON Fire Brigade is supporting proposals by the Government to make it mandatory for new residential buildings above 30 metres in height to have a minimum of two staircases in order to further improve building safety.

The Brigade has been challenging the practice of designing very tall buildings with only a single staircase for some time now. Responding to the Government’s consultation, it has reaffirmed support for the proposed changes to Building Regulations guidance.

The consultation was run by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and closed on Friday 17 March.

Staircases are not the only consideration when it comes to fire safety in buildings, and existing buildings with a single staircase will still be safe if they have appropriate fire safety measures in working order. However, the London Fire Brigade believes that multiple staircases in tall buildings improves resilience and makes buildings safer.

There are, of course, many considerations that go into maintaining fire safety in buildings, including the use of sprinklers, evacuation lifts and fire doors. When designed, built, and maintained correctly, all of these features combine to minimise the risk of fires in buildings.

A second staircase in a tall building can make it safer for those inside who may choose – or need – to evacuate in the event of a fire. The additional staircase also provides more resilience for firefighters when responding to incidents as it facilitates an additional access route and evacuation route for residents.

Planning applications

Back on 13 February, Sadiq Khan (the Mayor of London) announced that, with immediate effect, all new planning applications for tower blocks of 30 metres and above in the capital will need to include a second staircase in order to be considered for approval.

The London Fire Brigade has stated: “We hope that this decisive action will be replicated by the Government and rolled out across the rest of the country. We will continue to work closely with the National Fire Chiefs Council to ensure Government properly considers whether a lower threshold would be more appropriate.”

Clear threshold

Charlie Pugsley, assistant commissioner for fire safety in the capital, said: “Having pushed developers to include at least two staircases in tall residential buildings for some time, we support the Government’s plans to bring in this clear limit for new buildings over 30 metres. This introduction of a clear threshold will give clarity to developers, local authorities and communities alike and prevent the continued practice of increasingly tall buildings from being designed and constructed with only a single staircase.”

Pugsley added: “We also welcome the action taken by the Mayor of London to ensure that the Government’s proposed height threshold applies to new buildings being constructed in the capital.”

In its response to the consultation, the London Fire Brigade also strongly outlined its support for proposals to require sprinklers in new care homes. Sprinklers provide protection from fire damage and, most importantly, they afford people a greater chance of escape if there is a fire.

Making sprinklers a requirement in new care homes is a change that the Brigade has long advocated. The Brigade is also encouraging the Government to make it mandatory for sprinklers to be fitted into existing care homes.