GLA fast forwards requirement for two staircases in the capital’s residential towers

  • Legal Development 21 February 2023 21 February 2023
  • UK & Europe

  • UK Real Estate Insights

On 14 February 2023, the Greater London Authority (GLA) announced, with immediate effect, that all planning applications for residential buildings over 30 metres (roughly ten storeys) must include at least two staircases to be considered by the Mayor of London for final approval.

Under current planning law in England, tall buildings only require a single staircase, but the UK government consultation - Sprinklers in care homes, removal of national classes, and staircases in residential buildings - which we reported on last month, proposes changing those rules so that residential buildings above 30 metres will require two staircases.

The government consultation remains open, but with its announcement, the GLA has effectively pressed fast forward on the government's proposals in the capital with immediate effect. To this end, the GLA has said it will work with London councils to ensure schemes in the pipeline include two staircases, although buildings with only one staircase approved before 23 December 2022 are still eligible for GLA affordable housing grants.

Despite appearances, the GLA announcement may not have put this matter to rest entirely. Previously, there had been some concern that the GLA might follow the lead of the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) which called in December 2022 for the government to mandate a second staircase for all new towers exceeding 18 metres. The GLA’s recent announcement specifically references the NFCC’s recommendation but adopts what it calls ‘the national position’ of over 30 metres. Whilst this would suggest that consensus is growing around the 30-metre height requirement, just yesterday (20 February) in response to the government consultation, the Chartered Institute of Housing pressed the government to mandate a second staircase for all new towers exceeding 18 metres.

This uncertainty together with the expected implementation later this year of the new building safety regime under the Building Safety Act 2022, make this a crucial time for those in the property development industry to monitor legislative developments. Look out for further Insights on building safety from our real estate team on our UK Real Estate Hub.


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