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| 2 minutes read


Last week, the Secretary of State for the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (‘DLUHC’), Michael Gove, published a statement on the Building Safety Act, including the much-awaited transitional arrangements for the introduction of new guidance, which will require the provision of a second stair core in residential buildings over 18m. This follows on from our article analysing the original proposals. The change will be implemented via an amendment to Approved Document B (Fire Safety).


The transitional arrangements outlined in the statement are:

“From the date when we publish and confirm those changes to Approved Document B formally, developers will have 30 months during which new building regulations applications can confirm to either the guidance as it exists today, or to the updated guidance requiring second staircases. When those 30 months have elapsed, all applications will need to conform to the new guidance.”

Planning applications which have already been approved and are not in line with the new guidance will have 18 months for construction works to get underway. The statement helpfully defines sufficient progress to match the definition set out in the Building (Higher-Risk Buildings Procedures) (England) Regulations 2023 (i.e. the pouring of concrete for either the permanent placement of trench, pad or raft foundations or for the permanent placement of piling has started).

Whilst the DLUHC’s statement provides the clarity that many were hoping for, the original consultation document proposed “a very short transition period before implementing the changes”, explicitly stating that we would encourage all developments to prepare for this change now.

Given the lack of clarity at the time of the July 2023 announcement, many permitted schemes with single staircases above 18m have been put on hold or amended via non-material amendment (s96a)  or minor-material amendment (s73) applications. Some developers even sought new permissions on sites where it has not been possible to amend an existing permission.

This raises the question as to whether the publication of the statement comes at a time when many lenders, insurers and the wider development industry are upholding a requirement for second staircases in all new residential buildings of over 18m coming to market. 

That said, the publication of the transitional arrangements may present a window of opportunity for some permitted schemes over 18+m without a second staircase to continue without delay, especially where it may not be feasible or viable to undertake further amendments. In the statement, it is stressed that existing and upcoming buildings of 18+m are “not inherently unsafe” if built and managed in accordance with the relevant standards and that “lenders, managing agents, insurers, and others are to behave accordingly, and not to impose onerous additional requirements, hurdles or criteria on single-staircase buildings in lending, pricing, management or any other respect”.


The statement on the Building Safety Act provides welcome clarity around the transitional arrangements to help unlock schemes that have stalled as a result of earlier guidance. This should give confidence to developers to ensure that much-needed homes can be delivered at a time when they are grappling with a number of issues, including rising material and labour costs, which are making viable development difficult. We await an update from the Mayor’s office following publication of the statement.

The statement concludes by acknowledging that developers and the wider market are waiting for the design details that will be contained within Approved Document B. A further announcement is to be made in due course.


central government, housing, planning, insight