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Last edited 28 Jul 2023
Decision on second staircases, Michael Gove
The possibility of a requirement for second staircases in buildings above 30m in height was introduced by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities (DLUHC) in late 2022, to encourage developers to prepare early. The Mayor of London mandated the requirement of a second stair for all new 30m plus buildings across London in the following February. Whilst supporters of second stairs have been calling for this since 2018, shortly after the Grenfell tragedy in 2017, the Hackitt report did not actually include a recommendation for second stairs, as at the time none of the evidence indicated a lessening of risks, and focussed more on shifts in the culture of the construction.
On July 24, 2023 the housing secretary Michael Gove announced the requirement for additional stair case is required and it will be required in all buildings above 18 metres tall, rather than the previous proposal of above 30 metres tall. However, interim measures will be put in place with the “aim of securing the viability of projects which are already underway”. Some suggestion has been made by experts that these changes may lead to a loss of up to 6% of the floor area available for housing across London, although the RIBA , CIOB and many councils support the decision.
 Industry reaction
The Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) reacted to the news from Michael Gove MP that all buildings above 18 metres tall must have a secondary staircase to improve fire safety following a comprehensive campaign.
“The safety of residents and emergency services workers is paramount and can never be understated. We have always believed the proposal to mandate secondary staircases for buildings over 18 metres tall to be the best solution as it provides a more comprehensive strategy in ensuring all high-risk buildings have more than one means of a safe entrance and exit. Not only does it make exiting buildings in the event of an emergency easier, but it also allows emergency workers to avoid interruption. CIOB is delighted the Government has listened to our feedback, together with Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), and we hope the Government will continue to listen to our expertise throughout the remaining lifetime of the evolving Building Safety Act and its secondary legislation.” (CIOB website news)
Some criticism came from practices from the perspective of timings however. HTA Design managing director Simon Bayliss said Gove’s decision, which comes at the height of summer when many staff are on holiday, has been done “seemingly almost to maximise disruption. It’s massive,” he said of the move, adding: “There’s very little in London that goes below 18m somewhere in the project because of the pressures on viability.”
And PRP partner Andrew Mellor said the lack of warning provided by Gove “could potentially lead to more people not having work to do in design and construction companies and housing developers”. He said: “Some projects over 30m have stalled. I think we’re now going to see projects between 18 and 30 stalled because they’ll have to revisit, if they have not included two stairs. “It is stopping the provision of housing projects moving forward. People have been made redundant because of the stalling process, both in consultants and contracts and organisations.” (Building.co.uk)
Part of this article appears on the CIOB website as "CIOB reacts to Michael Gove MP's decision on second staircases" dated July 24, 2023.
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