Fire Safety Statements

19th August 2021
By Joe Hickling

Since the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, fire safety has become a far more prominent issue particularly in relation to high rise buildings and resulted in the Government commissioning an independent review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety.  In response, from 1st August 2021, planning applications for specified high-rise residential buildings are required to be accompanied by a Fire Statement as legislated in the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure and Section 62A Applications) (England) (Amendment) Order 2021 (”the 2021 Order”).

The Act introduces 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 which involves one or more relevant buildings; and
  • to establish the Health and Safety Executive as a statutory consultee for relevant planning applications

The following buildings are required to supported by a Fire Statement:

  • contain two or more dwellings or educational accommodation; and
  • meet the height condition: 18m or more in height, or 7 or more storeys

Development to existing buildings and/or within the curtilage of buildings which meet the standards above also require a Fire Statement.  The following exemptions also apply:

  • the application is for a material change in use of a relevant building and the material change of use would result in the building no longer being a relevant building;
  • the application is for a material change in use of land or buildings within the curtilage of a relevant building and the material change of use would not result in the provision of one or more relevant buildings;
  • the application is for outline planning permission; and
  • the application is for permission to develop land without compliance with conditions under section 73 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990

Fire Safety Statement’s take the form of a standard template which can be found through the following link:

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads
/attachment_data/file/996387/Fire_statement_form_-_static.pdf

The statement is required to be undertaken by someone which ‘relevant qualifications and experience’, although these are not specified.  The following details are required to be provided in the statement:

  • the principles, concepts and approach relating to fire safety that have been applied to each building in the development;
  • the site layout;
  • emergency vehicle access and water supplies for firefighting purposes;
  • what, if any, consultation has been undertaken on issues relating to the fire safety of the development; and what account has been taken of this; and
  • how any policies relating to fire safety in relevant local development documents have been taken into account

The legislation intends to ensure planning applications consider fully integrating fire safety at the land-use planning stage.  The level of information required to be provided at the planning stage is not intended to be as detailed as that required by building regulations or the Fire Safety Order.

Nevertheless, the Government in providing a clear framework for considering fire safety during the planning process may be providing a useful tool to help ensure issues and opportunities relating to fire safety are considered early within the development process, thereby hoping to avoid later delays.

However, in a planning system where Local Authorities are already under resourced during the development process, the creation of an additional statutory consultee in the form of a Health and Safety Executive may cause a further burden and subsequent delays to the speed at which planning applications are determined.

Furthermore, queries also remain about what constitutes a ‘qualified and experienced’ individual to prepare these statements for applicants.  Thereafter, how will responses from the Health and Safety Executive be assessed by the Local Planning Authority? Further guidance is likely to be required to fully assist Applicants and Local Planning Authorities to navigate this new requirement and it will be interesting to see how the new scheme operates over the following months.

Further details can be found in the Government guidance, which is available at:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/fire-safety-and-high-rise-residential-buildings-from-1-august-2021

 
Exit_web.jpg