New regulations are expected to make second staircases in tall buildings mandatory, reports Josh Mellor, Local Democracy Reporter
Incoming fire safety laws have prompted Waltham Forest Council to add extra staircases to its planned high-rise development next to Lea Bridge Station.
The development, approved in March last year, includes two towers 26 and 23 storeys tall at the junction of Lea Bridge Road and Orient Way in Leyton.
Waltham Forest Council and its development partner London Square have now submitted a planning application to add second staircases to the two towers and a third “courtyard” style building at the same site.
The move pre-empts an incoming change to planning laws following the Grenfell Tower tragedy, which is likely to require second staircases in all buildings over 50 metres tall. According to the government’s proposals, a second staircase in tall buildings adds “resilience for extreme events” and reduces the chance of conflict between emergency services and escaping residents.
It also gives residents an “alternative means of escape” if one of the staircases fills with smoke.
A design review of the safety changes included in the Lea Bridge planning application finds that the causes of the “catastrophic external fire spread” at Grenfell Tower – over-cladding, combustible materials in walls and lack of cavity barriers – would not be a problem in the Lea Bridge Station towers.
Mechanical extraction systems in corridors would “protect” the escape stairs from smoke while firefighters will be able to use a dedicated stairway, lift and water supply to deal with the fire. In addition, residential sprinklers mean it would be “unlikely” that the fire would require residents to evacuate.
The report concludes that two stairways would be “more than adequate” for a simultaneous evacuation of all floors.
The loss of space from the staircases, however, will result in the number of affordable homes falling slightly from 160 to 156 flats. Despite this loss, the scheme will remain 50% affordable by habitable room, as required by London-wide and Waltham Forest planning rules.
To view or comment on the planning application search for reference 231158 on the council’s planning portal.