Planning applications in London: What do you need to know?

The Greater London Authority ("GLA") recently announced that, for the Mayor of London to consider any planning applications for residential buildings over 30m for final approval, any proposed schemes will need to include at least two staircases within such buildings. This change has been implemented with immediate effect.

The announcement will be important for developers looking to develop high-rise buildings in the Greater London area, because if they do not, they will not be in a position to proceed with their plans.

What did the GLA say?

The GLA’s announcement stated that: “with immediate effect, all planning applications which involve residential buildings over 30 metres in height will need to be designed to provide two staircases before they are referred to [the GLA] at Stage 2 for the Mayor’s decision. [The GLA] recognise[s] that the earlier statement by the NFCC referenced over 18 metres but, to be clear, [the GLA’s] requirement for two staircases applies to residential buildings over 30m in line with the national position.”

Why has this requirement been introduced?

The UK Government published consultation documents before Christmas which concerned proposed changes to building regulations to include two staircases for new, high-rise residential buildings. These changes come after consistent expressions of concern over fire safety in the current national building regulations and suggestions that they are not fit for purpose.

What is the GLA Planning Team currently doing?

 The GLA Planning Team is in the process of working with the London Boroughs to progress schemes that are currently in the pipeline, so as to make sure that the requirement for two staircases is included prior to any referrals to Stage 2.

Buildings and fire safety has been high on the agenda for the UK Government following the Grenfell Tower tragedy in 2017. Since then, we have seen the introduction of the Buildings Safety Act 2022 and numerous concerns being raised over fire safety, particularly in high-rise buildings. As such, requirements like the one for two staircases in new residential buildings of this sort do not come as a big surprise.

It will be important for developers to take this announcement into consideration when looking at developing new residential buildings over 30m in the Greater London area. If developers have specific applications in the pipeline that may be affected by this, they should contact the GLA Planning Team or seek legal advice on the impact of these changes.