High-Rise Second Staircase Policy Update

Posted in April 2024

Following the long-awaited Government updated building safety guidance, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) has just announced that from 30 th September 2026, it will require all new residential buildings with a height of 18 metres or above, to accommodate a second staircase.

High-Rise Second Staircase Policy Update

This latest guidance, that has been unveiled by the DLUHC has been updated in the wake of the tragic Grenfell Tower fire back in 2017.  It confirms that the minimum height threshold for blocks of flats requiring a second staircase will be 18 metres. It also introduces new definitions for evacuation shafts, evacuation lift lobbies and interlocked stairs and storey exits.

Under amendments to the Approved Document B, interlocked stairs – also known as scissor stairs or stacked stairs (where two interlocking protected stairways provide two separate means of going out within one protected shaft or separated protected shafts), should in fact be considered as a single escape route as it does not constitute an alternative means of escape.

The Minister for Housing - Lee Rowley said: “The change in guidance to include two staircases for buildings over 18 metres provides clarity for developers and ensures both new and existing buildings provide safe and secure homes for all residents.”

The DLUHC added that confirmation of the transition period would also provide “clarity for developers during a difficult economic climate and projects previously held up at the planning stage can now go ahead with certainty”.

In October 2023, the Government announced it would set a 30 month transition period for this change, so that developers would have sufficient time to make the alterations required to their building projects.

The Government confirmed its plans to mandate second staircases in new high-rise residential developments last July, with the rules to apply to all buildings over 18 metres in height, which has been lowered from the original 30 metre threshold that was initially consulted on. 

The London Assembly Labour Group recently claimed that the ongoing uncertainty over the Government’s proposed changes to rules over second staircases was delaying the development of 38,000 planned homes across London.  

Further safety provisions for existing tall buildings are also under consideration as part of the Grenfell Tower inquiry’s recommendations. The Home Office is currently considering responses to its consultation on personal emergency evacuation plans, which closed in August 2022. A response to this is expected to be published in due course. 

Rent research commissioned by the Government found that crucially, the evacuation time from a high-rise block is halved when there is a second staircase in the building. 


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