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New fire safety planning requirements now in force 

Starting 1 August 2021, fire safety standards for high-rise residential developments are to be incorporated in their applications for planning permission.

This measure was intended to ensure that developers of high-rises will include fire safety features of their developments right at the planning stage.

Referred to as planning gateway one, incorporating fire safety in the early stages of construction was added to PPG or the Planning Practice Guidance, and was announced in June.

Introducing planning gateway one was a commitment by the government in Building a Safer Future: Proposals for Reform of the Building Safety Regulatory System. This was made in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017, which resulted in the Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety report conducted by Dame Judith Hackitt.

Planning gateway one has two key elements:

To require the developer to submit a fire statement setting out fire safety considerations specific to the development with a relevant application for planning permission for development that involves one or more relevant buildings.

To establish the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) as a statutory consultee for relevant planning applications.

In effect, before a decision is made on relevant applications, planning authorities will now be required to seek advice from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). This statutory consult role of the HSE will likely be part of the new Building Safety Regulator, which the HSE will lead.

Minister of State for Housing Christopher Pincher said: “This is a key step in our progress towards a new, risk-based building safety regime that will ensure fire safety is prioritised at every stage in the development of high-rise buildings.

“I am pleased to appoint the Health and Safety Executive as the statutory consultee, which will be on hand to provide its expertise to local planning authorities on these important fire safety elements.

“We are driving up the standards of safety for people’s homes and our new regulator – to be introduced under the building safety bill – will provide this essential oversight, from a building’s initial design, to providing homes in the future.”

Chief Inspector of Buildings at the HSE Peter Baked added: “The introduction of planning gateway one is an important milestone in the journey to radically reform building safety so that residents are safe, and feel safe, in their homes.

“It will ensure that fire safety is considered from the very beginning of a building’s life and that developments benefit from integrated thinking on fire safety.

“The Health and Safety Executive is now a statutory consultee for planning applications involving relevant high-rise residential buildings and will apply risk-based fire safety knowledge and expertise to evaluate planning applications.”

“This will enable local planning authorities to make sound and informed decisions.”