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Firms building single-stair towers are ‘betraying’ residents, says Hackitt

The continued building of high-rise residential blocks with solely a single staircase is a “betrayal” of future residents, in line with Judith Hackitt, chair of the Trade Security Steering Group.

In December, the federal government launched a consultation on whether or not to make it unlawful to construct tower blocks over 30 metres with a single staircase in England, whereas London mayor Sadiq Khan banned new single-stair towers over 30 metres within the capital final month.

This week the Royal Establishment of Chartered Surveyors and Chartered Institute of Builders said they believe that all residential buildings over 18 metres ought to have at the least two staircases. Nevertheless, even single-stair towers over 30 metres which have already been given planning permission can legally proceed to be constructed.

Talking on the Main Constructing Security convention on Thursday (23 March), Hackitt stated: “There are nonetheless high-rise buildings being constructed right now on this metropolis [London] of 30 storeys or extra the place a there single staircases are being put in”.

“I can not fathom the logic why individuals are doing it, however the justification that comes again if you ask the query as to why that’s occurring is: ‘Nicely, the plans have been authorised earlier than Gateway One [part of the new building safety regulatory regime] was in place.’

“Is that actually a justification for knowingly constructing a constructing that you already know goes to be extraordinarily tough, if not not possible, to evacuate within the occasion of a hearth?”

Hackitt, who’s finest recognized for authoring the Unbiased Evaluate of Constructing Laws and Fireplace Security after the Grenfell Tower tragedy, added: “I sincerely hope that those that are doing that work by no means [have to] reply for actions within the occasion of a tragedy.

“If I used to be one in all them, I might discover it exhausting to sleep at evening if I would been a part of that decision-making course of realizing that requirements are about to alter and in full data of the betrayal of people that will purchase and dwell in these flats in years to come back.”

Single-staircase towers have been allowed in England prior to now resulting from buildings’ “stay-put” coverage – during which residents are suggested to remain of their properties within the occasion of a hearth. This was deemed protected as a hearth shouldn’t unfold to different components of the constructing.

Nevertheless, the coverage was solid into doubt following the demise of 72 individuals at Grenfell Tower in 2017. The tower’s residents have been initially advised to not evacuate, however fireplace compartmentation failed as flammable cladding and insulation aided a fast unfold of flames.

Between April 2019 and April 2022, the London Fireplace Brigade reported 154 circumstances of fires in buildings of six storeys or extra the place 10 or extra residents evacuated. A complete of 8,500 individuals evacuated their buildings moderately than keep put throughout this time, in line with the brigade.

A second staircase would make evacuation in a hearth safer, as it could present a secondary escape if one staircase was affected by fireplace or smoke. It might additionally present larger capability for residents to evacuate, in addition to extra space if firefighters needed to journey up a high-rise constructing.

Elsewhere in her speech, Hackitt stated the adoption of a greater security tradition amongst constructing corporations had been “very combined”.

“There are some pockets of actually good observe and management, which is encouraging. However there are some who speak an excellent job, however if you begin to probe beneath the floor, that actual dedication and actual sense of function as to why they need to be doing this is not there,” she stated.