The Government is set to introduce new fire safety requirements into the planning system from 1 August 2021.
The principal aim is to transform the regulatory framework for fire safety and to ensure fire safety matters as they relate to land use planning are incorporated at the planning stage for schemes involving a higher risk building being 18m or more in height, or 7 or more storeys (whichever is reached first).
Known as Gateway One, planning is the first stage of a series of proposed ‘gateway points’ requiring the duty holder to demonstrate compliance at set points of the design (Gateway Two) and construction (Gateway Three) of higher risk buildings.
Passing Gateway One
Developers will need to submit a fire statement setting out fire safety considerations specific to the development with an application for planning permission for development which involves one or more relevant buildings.
Fire statements should include as much information as is relevant regarding fire safety issues on the outside of buildings, including spaces between buildings. The draft fire statement recommends that they are completed by a suitably qualified engineer with relevant experience in fire safety, such as a chartered engineer registered with the Engineering Council by the Institution of Fire Engineers, or a suitably qualified and competent professional with the demonstrable experience to address the complexity of the design being proposed.
Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) have issued a draft fire statement which shows that they expect information submitted with planning applications to include external wall systems, balconies, evacuation plans and emergency vehicle access. You can access this by clicking here.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in its capacity as the Building Safety Regulator under the Building Safety Bill will become statutory consultee for all planning applications and will provide planning authorities assistance in assessing applications.
If the Building Safety Regulator becomes aware of relevant buildings that have not been through Gateway One, they have the power to issue stop notices and force construction to stop.
Fire safety statements will have be submitted for planning applications which contain two or more dwellings or education accommodation and meet the height condition (18m or more in height, or 7 or more storeys whichever is reached first). There is scope for further buildings such as hospitals, offices, care homes and prisons to be included at a later date.
MHCLG intend to introduce a fire safety prior approval for residential accommodation delivered under permitted development rights.
Gateway One is the least onerous of the three gateways. It utilises the existing planning processes in England which most developers are familiar at navigating. But the requirement for the fire statement to be completed by a professional will inevitably increase the cost and risk of the planning process.
The 1 August introduction date will affect schemes for relevant buildings which are currently going through the pre application process, so it’s worth engaging professional support for proposed projects as soon as possible.
This is the first step in the introduction of Dame Judith Hackett’s recommendations and is intertwined with the Building Safety Bill. We can expect a number of legislative and regulatory developments this year as the Government gears up to pass the Building Safety Bill into legislation. We will, of course keep you fully up to date with all developments.