Government opting for stricter fire safety requirement after consulting on 30m rule in December

The government is planning to lower the threshold for second staircases in new residential blocks from 30m to 18m.

Housing secretary Michael Gove outlined the stricter mandate this morning as a response to a call from the housing sector for “coherence and certainty”.

It follows a government consultation at the end of last year on plans to set the threshold for second staircores in new blocks at 30m, or around ten storeys. 

The 18m option has long been called for by RIBA and the Chartered Institute of Housing and has already been introduced in the capital by the Mayor of London for buildings over 30m, despite its absence from Judith Hackitt’s post-Grenfell building safety review. 

Gove said the announcement of the new threshold would “provide much desired clarity to builders” and that transitional arrangements would be put in place “to make sure that there is no disruption to housing supply”. 

The Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) said: ”The government is clear that this new regulation cannot jeopardise the supply of homes by disrupting schemes that have been planned for years.

”DLUHC will work rapidly with industry and regulators over the summer to design transitional arrangements with the aim of securing the viability of projects which are already underway, avoiding delays where there are other more appropriate mitigations.”

RIBA called the move a “huge win” for fire safety standards.

The institute’s president Simon Allford said: “This is a significant moment. Over six years on from the Grenfell Tower tragedy, it is hugely positive and reassuring to see the government listening to the united call of experts on fire safety, bringing greater coherence and certainty for industry.  

”Mandating second staircases in new homes over 18 metres is a vital step towards a safer built environment for all. We are pleased to have played our part in this.”  

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The introduction of a second staircase requirement in London by Sadiq Khan has led to a swathe of developers taking schemes back to the drawing board. 

The mayor of London brought in the measure with immediate effect in February, sending builders in the capital scrambling to ensure schemes were viable. 

Just last week Building Design revealed F3 Architects’ 850-home scheme for Tottenham Hotspur had been delayed by eight months while second staircases were added.

Developments by AHMM, Bell Phillips and Conran & partners have also been shelved in response to the policy and consultants Lambert Smith Hampton and Connells estimate that plans to build a total of almost 125,000 homes might be scrapped.