HSE red flags 50% of Gateway One planning applications

Smoke vents and single fire shafts among safety design issues identified at Planning Gateway One

Construction cranes at sunset

Credit: istock coldsnowstorm

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has raised concerns about more than half of all applications it was required to be consulted on under the recently introduced first stage of the Planning Gateway process for vetting fire safety.

The Planning Gateway system was introduced in August 2021 as part of wider reforms to improve fire safety in the built environment following the Grenfell Tower disaster, the fifth anniversary of which was marked last month. It is intended to ensure that developers consider fire safety needs – such as site layout, safe escape routes and safe access for firefighters – when buildings are being designed and planned.

Planning Gateway One (PGO) applies to applications for buildings 18m or more in height, or of seven or more storeys, and that include at least two dwellings.

The HSE’s PGO service, a statutory consultee under the new process, says it has raised concerns about more than half of the applications it has had to be consulted on since the beginning of this year. Common fire safety design issues identified by it include smoke vents and external wall openings close to neighbouring properties, and restricted or non-existent access for fire appliances.

Others include single fire shafts, which represent the only means of escape for residents on upper storeys and could become compromised where they connect with higher fire-risk areas, such as car parks.

The PGO service provides pre-application advice for developers to encourage safer designs from the outset and reduce the risk of costly remediation action later.

Mark Wilson, the HSE’s operational policy lead on PGO, said: ‘Industry needs to stop thinking that fire safety should only be dealt with at the Building Regulations stage – it starts at planning. The application of PGO is changing this thinking and paving the way for the much more stringent building safety regime envisioned by the new Building Safety Act.