UK Government announces new safety measure: second staircase for buildings over 18 metres


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Sweeping changes in UK housing plans: safety and regeneration in focus

The UK Government has revealed a long-term plan for housing, signalling its commitment to regeneration and housing delivery across England.

Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, and the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove, announced plans to transform England’s cityscape

Mandate for a second staircase: a step towards enhanced safety

As part of its commitment to safety, the government has confirmed plans to require a second staircase in all new residential buildings over 18 metres.

This initiative aims to give people “unimpeachable confidence that new homes are safe and decent to live in,” according to the announcement.

The addition of a second staircase comes in response to industry calls for clarity and certainty.

The government is working quickly with industry and regulators to create transitional arrangements to avoid disruption to ongoing housing projects.

NFCC responds to the ‘second staircase’ regulation

The National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) welcomed the Government’s second staircase announcement.

In a statement, the NFCC shared their appreciation for the decision, noting that they had previously called for this safety measure.

Gavin Tomlinson, NFCC Protection and Business Safety Scrutiny Committee Chair, said: “NFCC welcomes the Secretary of State’s announcement that a second staircase will be mandatory for all new residential buildings above 18 metres in height… This decision marks another significant step in improving the safety of residents and firefighters in high-rise residential buildings across England.”

The NFCC is encouraging the government to extend this initiative to existing buildings by installing sprinklers and updating evacuation lifts during refurbishments.

More initiatives under the long-term housing plan

Also revealed in the housing plan are initiatives geared to revitalising cities and regenerating towns, with £800 million allocated from the £1.5 billion Brownfield, Infrastructure and Land fund to unlock up to 56,000 new homes on brownfield sites.

Reforms to the planning system will speed up new developments, empower local communities to build their own homes, and unlock planning decisions.

IFSJ Comment

This new regulation for a second staircase is a meaningful move towards enhancing building safety. By providing multiple escape routes, the risk of a single point of failure during a fire is significantly reduced, which buys crucial time for firefighting activities.

This strategy has already been successful in Scotland, and with this change, England is falling in line with numerous countries worldwide, such as in Europe, Australasia and North America, strengthening its commitment to safety in high-rise buildings.

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