Since 1 August 2021 any application for detailed planning permission that relates to a higher-risk building (i.e. a building over 18 meters with two or more dwellings) has been obliged to include a fire safety statement and has been subject to review and comment by the Building Safety Regulator (part of the HSE).

The HSE has recently confirmed that, since the beginning of 2022, it has raised concerns on over half of all applications it was required to be consulted on. Common fire safety design issues the HSE identified included:

  • smoke vents and external wall openings close to neighbouring properties; 
  • restricted or non-existent access for fire appliances; and
  • single fire shafts, that represented the only means of escape for residents on upper storeys, which could easily become compromised due to connections with higher fire risk areas, such as car parks or waste storage facilities.

The HSE's announcement indicates that the new building safety regime introduced by the Building Safety Act 2022 is already having an impact and, while there is significant room for improvement, it is becoming increasingly clear what the new building safety regime for higher-risk buildings will look and feel like going forward. 

For those involved with the design of higher-risk buildings, it is also worthwhile noting that the HSE provides pre-application advice to encourage safer designs from the outset and reduce the risk of costly remediation action later.