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New Fire Safety Gateways Explained

Documents published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) have revealed that the first stage of the planning reforms proposed in the Hackitt Report by Dame Judith Hackitt will come into effect on 1 August, 2021. The Hackitt Report was commissioned by the government after the Grenfell Tower fire to investigate the loopholes in the industry with regards to fire safety in order to understand the causes and prevent such disasters in the future.

The purpose of these new requirements is to promote fire safety matters across all planning stages for schemes involving high-rise residential buildings. Consequently, certain aspects of fire safety requirements will now be required right from the initial planning stages.

These newly introduced ‘Planning Gateways’ have two key elements. The first one requires the developer to submit a fire-safety statement highlighting the fire safety considerations specific to the development along with relevant applications for planning permission required for the development. The second Gateway includes establishing a Health and Safety Executive as a statutory consultee for all future relevant planning applications.

The fire-safety statement should include relevant information on areas, including but not limited to, the principles, concepts and approach relating to fire safety that have been applied to each building. It must include the site layout, emergency vehicle access and water supply sources for firefighting purposes to support the fire-safety plan proposed for the development. Additional details of consultation undertaken on issues relating to fire safety of the development and the solutions proposed for dealing with these issues also need to be mentioned at this stage. Lastly, local development documents related to local fire-safety policies also need to be reviewed.

The MHCLG recommends that the fire statement should be completed by a fire engineer or other suitably qualified and competent professional.

The Gateway One policy will also require that the local planning authorities consult with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) before granting planning permission for developments that will, or are likely to involve the provision of a relevant building and/or development of an existing relevant building.

These newly proposed regulations will apply to buildings that are either above 18m or seven storeys in height being built for residential or educational accommodation purposes.

Three New Planning Gateways

Gateway One - Planning: Applicants are required to submit a planning document demonstrating the fire safety decisions and planning related to land use planning. Specialist fire safety expertise is provided to local planning authorities on a statutory basis. (Planned to be introduced on 1 August, 2021)

Gateway Two - Technical Design and Construction: Provides the current Building Control ‘deposit of full plans’ stage with the Building Safety Regulator, the only option open to the Building Control body for in-scope buildings. At this stage a Building Control application will be required and this Gateway acts as a ‘hard stop’ as construction cannot begin until final approvals from the Building Safety Regulator have been received for the project.

Gateway Three - The Final Certificate: In this stage, the Building Safety Regulator will conduct a final inspection and then issue a completion certificate. Without this certificate, the building construction cannot be passed on to the next stage. Here prescribed documents and information on the as-built building will be required, and information must be handed over to the person(s) responsible for the building once occupied.