Grenfell Tower survivors slam plans for skyscraper with ONE staircase
21st January 2022

Grenfell Tower survivors condemn ‘shocking’ plans for 35-storey residential skyscraper with just ONE staircase that is set to be built just a few hundred yards from site of 2017 blaze

  • Grenfell Tower survivors have slammed plans for a skyscraper with one staircase
  • The proposed block would house flats in 35-storeys, 11 more than Grenfell Tower
  • According to planning documents, tower will rely on the ‘stay put’ fire strategy
  • But Grenfell United described the plans for the residential block as ‘shocking’ 

Grenfell Tower survivors have slammed ‘shocking’ plans for a residential skyscraper with just one staircase which is set to be build just a few hundred yards from the site of the 2017 fire. 

The proposed building, which is part of a planned development for 1,760 new homes in west London, would house flats in up to 35-storeys, 11 more than Grenfell Tower.

According to planning documents, the skyscraper will rely on the same ‘stay put’ fire strategy used during the 2017 fire in which 72 people died, The Guardian reported.

The new apartment tower would have just one staircase – just like Grenfell Tower, the 24-storey residential block in north Kensington, London.

Under current building regulations, tall buildings can have just one single staircase if they are designed so residents can stay safely in their flats during a fire. 

Rules instead require buildings above 11 meters must be fitted with sprinklers. 

The proposed building (pictured), which is part of a planned development for 1,760 new homes in west London, would house flats in up to 35-storeys, 11 more than Grenfell Tower

The plans were submitted to Hammersmith and Fulham Council by Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield (URW), the owner of Westfield shopping centre, in April.

They come at a time when the Government is reviewing escape provisions in blocks of flats, including the use of a ‘stay put’ strategy and evacuation in building regulations. 

The Grenfell Tower fire in 2017 saw 72 people die when a fire spread to exterior cladding and engulfed the building.

Grenfell United described the plans, which could see the new skyscraper erected just a few hundred yards from the site of the Grenfell fire, as ‘shocking’.

The group for the bereaved and survivors added: ‘Not enough has been done since Grenfell to improve building safety.’

A spokesperson for URW told The Guardian: ‘Building safety is a key priority for any of our developments and as part of the design process we have engaged a fire engineer to ensure that access and egress arrangements for fire brigades and occupants satisfies the London Plan guidelines and meet all required building safety protocols. 

‘We also work very closely with the local authority planning department, who in turn work with the London fire brigadedirectly to ensure applications are in line with regulations. 

‘In addition, our buildings have other mitigation measures in place including sprinklers throughout the buildings and the use of 100% non-combustible facades.’ 

The new apartment tower would have just one staircase – just like Grenfell Tower, the 24-storey residential block in north Kensington, London

 According to planning documents, the skyscraper will rely on the same ‘stay put’ fire strategy used during the 2017 fire (pictured) in which 72 people died

A Hammersmith and Fulham Council spokesperson told MailOnline: ‘The safety of residents is our number one priority. 

‘We take a tough line with developers to ensure that anything they build is fully compliant with all safety and other regulations as a minimum, and that local people are fully consulted.’ 

A London Fire Brigade spokesperson said: ‘We are aware of this development and we will be providing a response to the planning consultation.’

MailOnline has contacted URW for further comment. 

It comes after the developer of a 51-storey apartment block withdrew its application from a planning hearing following concern that it featured only one staircase. 

Developers Ballymore wanted to build the new 570ft high block of flats on the outskirts of London’s Canary Wharf.

The 421-flat tower block would have been one of the tallest residential buildings in the UK and more than two-and-a-half times the height of Grenfell Tower.

It sparked criticism from fire safety campaigners, who claim that such tall a building would require a second set of stairs under the international building code – which is not adopted in the UK.

Despite the concerns, the proposals had been recommended for approval by council planning chiefs and were due to be rubber stamped at a committee tonight, with city fire chiefs having not submitted objections. 

It came as London Fire Brigade (LFB) has since submitted 11th hour concerns about the application.

Fire chiefs have warned of ‘insufficient justification’ for a single tall staircase and they are are concerned the design submitted ‘does not provide suitable and convenient means of escape and associated evacuation strategy for all building users’. 

Grenfell United described the plans, which could see the tower erected just a few hundred yards from the site of the Grenfell fire, as ‘shocking’. Pictured: Grenfell Tower in June 2021

Developers pulled the application from the planning meeting in order to give them more time to respond to the concerns.

The plans for the new skyscraper at Cuba Street, near to Canary Wharf, were due to be discussed by Tower Hamlets Council’s Planning Committee last week.

But, ahead of the meeting, the London Fire Brigade submitted a letter to the developers Ballymore – the firm behind the controversial Sky Pool at Embassy Garden. 

In the letter, seen by MailOnline, it said: ‘LFB have concerns with the design that has been submitted, and in our opinion it does not satisfy the requirements of The London Plan 2021, to ‘provide suitable and convenient means of escape, and associated evacuation strategy for all building users’.’

The statement continued: ‘We do not believe that sufficient justification has been provided for the tall single stair approach, nor do we agree that particular aspects of the design are compatible for such an approach. 

‘Furthermore, in our opinion there are insufficient facilities provided to support the safe egress for disabled occupants.’ 

Along with the raising objections about the single stair case, LFB also highlighted concerns about the planned evacuation list and the corridor layout, which it says ‘does not provide sufficient protection to users who may rely upon these for safe escape’. 

A spokesperson for Ballymore told MailOnline: ‘As part of the planning application for our Cuba Street development, Ballymore received comments from the London Fire Brigade today, requesting clarification around aspects of the application. 

‘We are more than happy to provide that clarification and will continue to work closely with the LFB and local authority towards presenting the scheme for planning approval in due course. 

‘Like all Ballymore developments, the Cuba Street scheme will be built in full accordance with approved and emerging guidance and British Standards.’ 

The Grenfell Tower fire in 2017 saw 72 people die when a fire spread to exterior cladding and engulfed the building 

A London Fire Brigade spokesperson said: ‘Our comments on the Cuba Street development have been provided directly to the planning committee with regards to the fire strategy of the building.

‘We do have concerns that the design submitted does not provide suitable and convenient means of escape and associated evacuation strategy for all building users.

‘In buildings with a single escape route, we would expect the developer to have their own fire engineers provide a full review to show the resilience in the event of a fire and this does not appear to have been carried out.

‘While we are not a statutory consultee on such planning applications, we would always look to provide a response around the fire strategy in high-rise buildings, as we have in this case.’

A Tower Hamlets Council spokesperson said: ‘We are bound by UK planning law and standards when considering a planning application in our borough. 

‘Applications must be decided on their planning merits, irrespective of who the applicant is.

‘Comments from the London Fire Brigade were received today, which raise a number of issues that will need to be addressed. 

‘The applicant has asked for more time to respond and therefore the item will no longer be considered at tonight’s meeting, and will only be brought to committee once these issues are resolved.’ 

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