DLUHC Announces 30-month Transition For Second Staircases In 18m+ Buildings

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Housing secretary Michael Gove has announced a 30-month transition period before the new second staircase guidance must be followed in England. 

Announcing the intended transitional arrangements for the policy in a statement on Tuesday 24th October 2023, Michael Gove said this period will begin from the date the government publishes and confirms the changes to Approved Document B – the government’s building guidance covering fire safety.

Housebuilders will then have 30 months from this date, during which new building regulations applications can conform to the guidance “as it exists today, or to the updated guidance”. 

In July, Mr Gove confirmed that the government will impose a requirement for second staircases on all new buildings in England that are 18 metres or taller, lowered from the 30 metres proposed when the initial consultation on the policy launched. He said this followed “confirmation from expert bodies that they support this threshold”.

After the two-and-half-year transition period, Mr Gove said “all applications will need to conform to the new guidance”.

Any approved applications that do not follow the new guidance will have 18 months for construction to “get underway in earnest”. If not, they will have to submit a new application following the new guidance. 

Sufficient progress, for this purpose, will match the definition set out in the Building (Higher-Risk Buildings Procedures) (England) Regulations 2023 and will therefore be when the pouring of concrete for either the permanent placement of trench, pad or raft foundations, or for the permanent placement of piling has started,” Mr Gove said. 

He added that the transitional arrangements will ensure that projects which already have planning permission with a single staircase, “the safety of which will have been considered as part of that application”, can continue without further delay if they choose. 

Mr Gove said: “I want to be absolutely clear that existing and upcoming single-staircase buildings are not inherently unsafe. They will not later need to have a second staircase added, when built in accordance with relevant standards, well maintained and properly managed.

“I expect lenders, managing agents, insurers and others to behave accordingly, and not to impose onerous additional requirements, hurdles or criteria on single-staircase buildings in lending, pricing, management or any other respect. Those who live in new buildings over 18 metres can be reassured that those buildings are already subject to the additional scrutiny of the new, enhanced building safety regime.

Mr Gove added that the Building Safety Regulator is working to agree the design details that will go into Approved Document B “rapidly” and said he will make a further announcement soon.