Rona Westgate

Rona Westgate

Senior Professional Support Lawyer

Read More
Rona Westgate

Rona Westgate

Senior Professional Support Lawyer

Read More

24 May 2021

Building Safety Bill: proposals for planning Gateway One

  • Briefing

Requirement for new fire safety statements to be introduced into the planning process on 1 August 2021 for higher-risk residential buildings in England.

What is the background?

The government confirmed in the Queen's speech that the Building Safety Bill will be introduced to Parliament for debate in the next Parliamentary session.

Under the Building Safety Bill, a new regulatory regime is proposed for higher risk, multi-occupancy residential buildings of 18 metres or more in height, or 7 or more storeys (whichever is reached first).   This includes a new gateway process - at planning stage, prior to construction and prior to occupation - which is designed to ensure that fire safety matters are taken into account at key stages of a development.

The government has published its proposals for the planning gateway one to ensure that fire safety matters are incorporated into the planning stage of relevant schemes involving higher-risk residential buildings.

What are the Gateways?

The Gateways will be established under the Building Safety Bill:

  • Gateway One – the applicant must demonstrate that the planning application process incorporates thinking on fire safety.
  • Gateway Two – the deposit of plans with the Building Safety Regulator will be required. There will be a hard stop on construction which cannot begin unless the Building Safety Regulator has approved the application.
  • Gateway Three – there will be a hard-stop on occupation of the development while the Building safety Regulator carries out final inspections and issues a completion certificate.

What are the Planning Gateway One proposals?

The key provisions of the Gateway 1 proposals are that for a relevant building:

  • A fire statement setting out fire safety considerations specific for the development will need to be included in the planning application;
  • The HSE (and once established the Building Safety Regulator) will become a statutory consultee to provide specialist fire safety advice to local planning authorities before planning permission can be granted.

What is a relevant building?

A relevant building is a building which:

  • meets the height condition (18 metres or more in height, or 7 or more storeys, whichever is reached first)
  • contains two or more dwellings, or educational accommodation (this would include boarding schools and university accommodation), and
  • is a new development or involves re-development of an existing relevant building, or development within the curtilage of an existing building.

This is broadly in line with the proposals initially set out in the draft Building Safety Bill as to the scope of the new regulatory regime. Although publication of the Building Safety Bill following pre-legislative scrutiny is awaited, the Secretary of State is likely to be given powers to change the definition of buildings caught in the new regime to enable further types of building to be included in scope from time to time.

What information must the Fire Statement contain?

A fire statement must include the following information:

  • the principles and approach taken to fire safety in the development;
  • the site layout, building information to include background information about eternal wall systems and balconies, and the approach to evacuation of residents;
  • emergency vehicle access and water supplies for fire-fighting;
  • what, if any, consultation has taken place in relation to fire safety and what account has been taken of this; and
  • how any policies relating to fire safety in any relevant local development documents have been taken into account.

A standard form is published to ensure consistency. It is recommended that the fire safety statements are completed by a suitably qualified engineer with relevant fire safety experience, or other suitably qualified and competent professionals with demonstrable experience to address the complexity of design being proposed in terms of fire safety.

How are the changes to implement Planning Gateway One being implemented?

The changes to implement Gateway One are to be implemented by statutory instrument, the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure and Section 62A Applications) (England) (Amendment) Order 2021.

When will these proposals come into effect?

These proposals are due to come into effect from 1 August 2021, subject to Parliamentary scrutiny, and will apply to relevant buildings in England.

What does this mean?

This means that planning applications in respect of relevant buildings submitted after 1 August 2021 will need a new Fire Safety Statement. Although the new regulatory regime itself is not expected to be implemented until 2023, thinking on fire safety needs to be considered at the earliest possible stage in the development process.

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