Statutory consultee role paving the way for more stringent building safety regime

Poor building design for tall buildings in England is being tackled right from the outset of a building’s life following the introduction of HSE as a statutory consultee on planning applications.

The changes introduced in August 2021, are intended to ensure that developers consider fire safety needs such as site layout, safe escape routes and safe access for firefighters at the planning stage, so that buildings are designed to be safer. Protecting the health, safety and wellbeing of existing and future intended occupants of tall residential buildings is HSE’s priority.

Since the start of the year, the Planning Gateway One (PGO) service at HSE has raised concerns on over half of all applications it was required to be consulted on.

Common fire safety design issues HSE has identified include smoke vents and external wall openings close to neighbouring properties and restricted or non-existent access for fire appliances. Also, single fire shafts, that represent the only means of escape for residents on upper storeys, could easily become compromised where they connect with higher fire risk areas, such as car parks or waste storage facilities.

Mark Wilson, Operational Policy Lead and Planning Gateway One (PGO) said:

"Industry needs to stop thinking that fire safety should only be dealt with at the building regulations stage – it starts at planning.

The application of PGO is changing this thinking and paving the way for the introduction of the much more stringent building safety regime envisioned by the new Building Safety Act.

Designers need to respond to the good practice that is being established so fire safety design standards are raised at the start of a building’s life-cycle"

HSE’s responses are providing an early indication to local planning authorities and the development community about what a more stringent regulatory regime for tall residential buildings looks and feels like. The PGO service at HSE also includes pre-application advice for developers to encourage safer designs from the outset and reduce the risk of costly remediation action later.

Find out more about HSE’s planning advice service and what developers need to do here:

Further government guidance on fire safety and high-rise residential buildings can be found here:

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Updated 2022-06-22