In a significant development, Housing Secretary Michael Gove has unveiled a transition period for implementing regulations mandating a second staircase in buildings taller than 18 meters of two and a half years.
Gove's announcement in Parliament yesterday of these "transitional arrangements" provides much-needed clarity for the construction industry.
According to the Housing Secretary, the 30-month transition period for a second staircase will commence upon the formal publication and confirmation of changes to Approved Document B in building regulations by the government.
However, specific details regarding the formulation of these new guidelines and their impact on the design of residential high-rises exceeding 18 meters (approximately six stories) remain undisclosed.
This statement comes in the wake of reports of developers delaying their projects, particularly in London, where Mayor Sadiq Khan said he wanted to apply the mandate in the capital immediately to major projects.
Transition Period for Second Staircase
Gove's decision to lower the threshold from 30 meters to 18 meters for the requirement of a second staircase took the industry by surprise. He justified this change by aligning it with recommendations from the National Fire Chiefs Council and the Royal Institute of British Architects, aiming to bring England in line with international standards.
In announcing the transition period for second staircase regulations Gove emphasized ;
"Developers will have 30 months from the date of the formal publication and confirmation of changes to Approved Document B to comply with either the existing guidance or the updated guidance stipulating second staircases. Once this transition period concludes, all applications must adhere to the new guidelines."
Furthermore, Gove clarified that projects approved under the previous regulations would have 18 months, as defined by the Building (High-Risk Buildings Procedures) Regulations 2023, to commence construction in earnest.
Failure to do so would necessitate the submission of new plans under the updated regime. This provides a window for development to commence before the second staircase regulation applies.
Importantly, Gove sought to assure the industry that buildings designed under the existing regulations are not inherently unsafe. He urged lenders, managing agents, insurers, and other stakeholders not to impose excessive requirements or criteria on single-staircase buildings in terms of lending, pricing, management, or any other aspect.
Gove also indicated that he would soon provide additional information on the design specifics that will be incorporated into Approved Document B. He acknowledged the anticipation within the developer and broader market communities and assured that the Building Safety Regulator is working diligently to finalize these details.
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