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Planning authorities should consult fire & rescue services when considering applications, says Hackitt

Words: Laura Edgar
High rise residential buildings / iStock-530194388

Local planning authorities should consult with a newly created body on high-risk residential buildings (HRRB) to ensure that in the event of a fire, the building is accessible to rescue services.

The recommendation forms part of the final report by Dame Judith Hackitt, which was called for after the fire last June at Grenfell Tower on the Lancaster Estate in West London.

The Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety calls for the creation of a joint competent authority (JCA) to hold landlords and building managers to account. It will oversee safety within higher-risk residential buildings (HRRBs), which are defined in the report as being more than 10 storeys in height.

The JCA would comprise the Local Authority Building Standards, fire and rescue authorities and Health and Safety Executive. They will not be merged.

The report states that while the planning system “clearly needs to focus on swift throughput of all planning applications” if the government is to meet housing supply needs, “there are some minimum requirements around fire safety that will need to be addressed when local planning authorities are determining planning applications and will require input from those with the relevant expertise”.

There is a need, the report continues, for “upfront consideration” of fire service access to HRRBs to ensure that if there is a fire, the building “is sufficiently accessible”.

This would apply to new HRRBs and to other new buildings that fall within a particular radius of a HRRB where it could affect fire service accessibility.

In order to address the risk for all HRRBs, local planning authorities should consult with the JCA “so that the fire and rescue authorities can advise on fire service accessibility issues at that point”.

Guidance detailing what issues should be considered by the JCA at the planning stage with a clear focus on, for example, emergency vehicle access to the building, is required to “ensure clarity of approach”.

This should not have a significant impact on local planning authorities, according to the report.

Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety: Final Report can be found on the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government website (pdf).

Read more:

Hackitt announces new authority to hold landlords and managers to account 

Consultation on new building safety rules

News report: Many failings behind Grenfell tragedy

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