Last month Enfield Council’s planning committee voted to grant planning permission for two new tower blocks at its Meridian Water development in Upper Edmonton. The blocks will be 24 and 30 storeys tall and will have single staircases, despite calls from industry experts to ban such buildings.
Council officers informed the committee that they had consulted the London Fire Brigade (LFB) but they had not yet received a response. Some committee members suggested deferring the application, as this would allow them to review the LFB’s response before making their decision. However, the majority of committee members voted against this proposal and instead voted to approve the tower blocks without first having reviewed the response from the LFB.
We submitted a Freedom of Information request, and it shows the LFB provided a response to Enfield Council on 13th October, just two weeks after the planning committee meeting. However, the letter from the LFB has still not been published on the Council’s Planning Portal.
A copy of the London Fire Brigade’s response can be downloaded here.
The LFB’s response notes that there is a lack of information about the fire safety provision for the proposed tower blocks.
“… the planning portal contains very little information surrounding the fire safety provisions proposed”Assistant Commissioner (Fire Safety) – LFB response to Enfield Council 13/10/2022
The letter also raises a number of specific concerns about the design of the two tower blocks which will be 24 and 30 storeys high, including issues relating to the single staircase.
“We note that the design includes features not supported by fire safety guidance, e.g. amenity spaces interacting with the single means of escape, which in our opinion are not compatible with a single stair design”Assistant Commissioner (Fire Safety) – LFB response to Enfield Council 13/10/2022
The LFB raise concerns about the location of cooking facilities within some of the flats and the design of the balconies.
“Some internal flat layouts appear to have cooking facilities directly adjacent to the front door / single means of escape from the apartment. In our opinion, this should be addressed prior to approval.”Assistant Commissioner (Fire Safety) – LFB response to Enfield Council 13/10/2022
The letter also raises concerns about the ground floor layout of the buildings in regard to facilities provided for firefighting purposes and describes the access as “convoluted”.
“It is unclear from the information available what facilities are to be provided for firefighting purposes. However, from the detail reviewed we have concerns surrounding the internal and vehicular access arrangements proposed. There appear to be extended distances and convoluted routes associated with both.”Assistant Commissioner (Fire Safety) – LFB response to Enfield Council 13/10/2022
The LFB also recommended that an additional firefighting and evacuation lift be considered, as there is only one staircase proposed.
“We would recommend that consideration be given to the provision of more than one evacuation and firefighters lift, taking into account the proposed height of these buildings and the proposed numbers of stairs”Assistant Commissioner (Fire Safety) – LFB response to Enfield Council 13/10/2022
The letter warns about the issues that could arise later because the single stair design may not be justified during the Building Regulations approval process, for which the LFB will be a statutory consultee. It explains that an additional stair may be found to be required at later stage and the project may need to return to planning.
The feedback from the London Fire Brigade is informative and important and should be respected and listened to. In our opinion, the Council should have waited until they had received this feedback before the application was taken to the planning committee. Committee members should have been able to consider the LFB’s concerns before they voted on whether to approve the tower blocks.
Fortunately, it may not be too late. At the time of writing the decision has not yet been formally issued by the Council. This means the planning committee can and should be given the opportunity to reconsider their decision because important new information has become available.