A property developer bidding to build a 51-storey apartment tower with a single staircase has suspended its planning application just hours after the Guardian exposed fire safety concerns.
On Thursday evening, Ballymore had planned to seek approval for one of the UK’s tallest residential buildings near Canary Wharf in east London, but withdrew its application after fire safety experts qualified of “madness” his project to build more than 400 apartments in a tower two. -one and a half times the height of Grenfell with only one staircase.
Details of the plan sparked widespread outrage and concern, including from survivors of the Grenfell Tower disaster, which also had only one staircase. Local MP Apsana Begum said voters had “a right to be distressed” and said she would ensure concerns were addressed.
The London Fire Brigade also raised formal concerns about the proposals with planners in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets on Thursday, and Ballymore called for the application to be removed from the planning committee’s agenda.
An LFB spokesperson said the design “does not provide appropriate and practical means of escape and an associated escape strategy for all building users”.
“In buildings with only one fire escape we would expect the developer to have their own fire engineers provide a full review to show resilience in the event of a fire and this does not appear to have been carried out.”
According to current building regulations, only one staircase is permitted in high-rise buildings if they are designed in such a way that residents can “stay safely in their apartment in the event of a fire”. However, fire safety experts believe it is too risky and the government is looking into providing escape routes.
A fire safety expert, Arnold Tarling, told the Guardian it was “utter madness that this is still allowed”. A tenant in a nearby building in Ballymore that caught fire last year described the plan as “very scary” because it could result in evacuees and firefighters trying to use the same staircase in opposite directions.
Family group Grenfell United said: “Grenfell had a staycation policy and a stairwell. Seventy-two died. Fifteen of the 72 victims killed were disabled. Individual evacuation plans are still not mandatory for residents with disabilities. The stay-in-place policy remains. Where are the lessons learned?
Rabina Khan, a local councilor who planned to oppose the scheme, said she was “very happy” that the scheme could now be revamped. “I want to see two stairwells,” she said. “We need to put people before profit.”
At least 27 countries have stricter rules than the UK requiring second stairs in tall residential buildings. They are required in all buildings taller than four stories in the United States, taller than 25 meters in Belgium and Poland, taller than 60 meters in Germany and Switzerland, and taller than 80 meters in Italy. The Cuba Street tower in Ballymore is expected to be 174 meters high.
News of the single staircase project caused widespread alarm. Create Streets, an influential urban design think tank among conservatives, tweeted: “Stupidity makes the same mistakes again. Towers have their place (they work especially well for the wealthy and childless) but shouldn’t be the default way to populate our cities.
The Royal Institute of British Architects meanwhile has asked the government’s new building safety regulator to set a new height threshold at which at least two flights of stairs are required in residential towers.
A spokesperson for Tower Hamlets Council said: ‘Comments from the London Fire Department were received today which raises a number of issues which will need to be addressed. The requester has requested more time to respond and therefore the item will not be considered further at tonight’s meeting and will only come before the committee once these issues have been resolved.
A Ballymore spokesperson said: ‘As part of the planning application for our Cuba Street development, Ballymore received feedback today from the London Fire Department, requesting clarification on certain aspects of the application. We are more than happy to provide this clarification and will continue to work closely with LFB and local authorities to present the planning approval scheme in due course. Like all developments in Ballymore, the Cuba Street project will be built in full compliance with approved and emerging guidelines and British standards.
Tower Hamlets Justice for Leaseholders Group, which represents those affected by the current building safety crisis, said the withdrawal of the application was “a sign of the start of a new era in fire safety and people’s rights”. tenants in the UK”.
“The public outcry over the construction of a new building with weak fire safety measures should serve as a wake-up call to developers and councils…this latest development shows they are ‘in the know’.”