Second staircase uncertainty delaying 38,000 London homes, mayor claims

Thousands of homes in London have stalled construction amid uncertainty over the technical requirements of forthcoming second-staircase regulations, London mayor Sadiq Khan has claimed.

Khan told the London Assembly he was aware that around 38,000 homes had been delayed as developers grapple with the new fire-safety regulation, although he believes the true number to be much higher.

Housing secretary Michael Gove confirmed last July that the government intended to mandate two staircases in residential buildings higher than 18 metres, although in October he said the rules would not come into force until at least 2026.

Khan had already partially pre-empted the move – in February 2023 he imposed a ban on new single-stair developments over 30 metres high in London.

Khan told the London Assembly: “It has now been over a year since the government launched the consultation on the requirement for second staircases and they have yet to publish the technical details.

“This delay has resulted in many developers deciding not to pursue their proposals until there is clarity on the requirements.”

“My housing and planning teams continue to work with DLUHC [Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities] to stress the urgency of providing the clarity to developers to help unlock the delivery of much-needed homes in London.”

Khan’s figure only includes homes that are part of planning applications referable to the Greater London Authority – developments that contain more than 150 residential units, rise higher than 30 metres (outside the City of London), or are proposed for green belt or metropolitan open land.

Housing secretary Michael Gove told MPs in February that the Building Safety Regulator would publish technical guidance on second staircases by the end of March.

He said the new statutory guidance – contained in amendments to Approved Document B – would make clear the need for a second staircases in high-rise new-builds.

Key details of the policy, such as whether the staircases will have to be contained in separate building cores, are yet to be unveiled.

Gove said: “A second staircase will provide new buildings with additional resilience to support exit from the building and enhanced options for firefighting in the rare event of a catastrophic incident.

“This evolution of safety standards will be a helpful addition to existing building safety measures which we have already introduced and, alongside the enhanced scrutiny of the new building safety regime, will provide people with further confidence in the safety of new homes.”

In October Gove said that developers would be able to submit plans for single-stair housing schemes above 18 metres for a 30-month transition period after the amendments to Approved Document B are published.

He said: “I expect lenders, managing agents, insurers, and others 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.”

In December the London Assembly called on the government to publish technical guidance as soon as possible and shorten the 30-month transition period.

Labour assembly member Anne Clarke said: “We should not allow the government to drag its feet – they must publish their guidance urgently so that London new-builds over 18 metres can begin to be built with second staircases.”

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