Claim Made that Friary Park Staircase Solution Remains Unsafe

Council approves new designs for some of the towers

Aerial view of a visualisation of the scheme. Picture: Mount Anvil

May 16, 2023

Concerns continue to be raised that designs at the Friary Park development remain unsafe even after changes were made to meet new regulations.

Ealing Council approved proposals by the developer Mount Anvil to incorporate second staircases into towers in the scheme which had earlier been approved but not yet built on 3 May.

Currently work is taking place at the site for Phase 1 and Phase 1b of the project. Phase 1, there is one tower of 14 floors completely constructed and with some social housing tenants already in occupation plus a 24-floor tower which has been built to its full height but yet to commence internal construction. Both towers have the single staircase design about which LFB has expressed reservations. Phase 1b includes a 22-floor tower and a 17 floor tower which were originally approved with single staircases and subsequently with double staircases in a revised design. Phases 2 and 3 have outline planning permission and will be commenced probably some time next year.

All seven of the tall towers in the scheme are above the 30 metre threshold which requires a second staircase to be included but some passed through the planning process before it was a requirement. London Fire Brigade, in its response to the early applications, have said that ‘our concerns remain’ about the safety of single staircase tall buildings. It had earlier recommended that multiple staircases be included in all the towers. Despite this, the borough planning committee approved designs with single staircases back in October. The government subsequently changed the regulations following the Grenfell Tower disaster in which it is believed only having a single escape route increased the number of fatalities.

The new designs incorporate a second staircase into the towers with no reduction in the number of flats in each building. This has been achieved by reducing the size of each flat. Controversially, Ealing Council decided to treat these changes to a minor amendment to an existing application approved last October rather than a completely new one, avoiding the need to reconsult on the development. It is understood that keeping the number of flats in each tower the same enabled Mount Anvil to avoid submitting a new application.

The council recently abandoned its own project for the redevelopment of Perceval House after concluding the cost of incorporating a second staircase into the main tower in the scheme would have made it unviable.

The Cap The Towers group says of Ealing Council’s decision on Friary Park, “Regrettably however, this ‘approval’ involves breaking the rules, this time on the serious matter of fire safety.”

The group says that the council ‘rushed through’ the approval of earlier stages to avoid the need to change designs of buildings at a time when it was widely known the government intended to introduce a requirement for second staircases.

Cap the Towers says, “It a scandal and shameful that Ealing Council should allow or perhaps even encourage a developer to construct a single staircase residential tower of exactly the same height as Grenfell just two miles away. There, as everyone now knows, the single staircase was one of the causes of so many deaths.”

The next two towers to be built, which are 22 and 17 storey high will have a second staircase but these will be adjacent to each other in the same core.

Cap the Towers has reservations about the design of these towers saying that the Fire Regulations state that when a second staircase is added it should be at ‘an appropriate distance’ from the first staircase.

The group says, “Ealing Council has ‘approved’ a plan which does not comply with the Fire Regulations and which manifestly provides a much reduced opportunity for safe escape in the event of fire, by placing the escape routes right beside each other.”

According to a local architect we have spoken to, it is not necessarily the case that staircases running adjacent to each other are non-compliant with the regulations as long as there is fire resisting separation and sufficient distance between the entry points.

The Fire Brigade Report into the new designs says that they put disabled residents at undue risk but it does not say that the single core design is non-compliant with regulations. The report submitted to the council on 14 September by LFB states, “All staircases should be suitably separated by both fire protection, and by appropriate distance between them.”

The grant of planning permission for the revised designs is conditional on the production of a Fire Statement on the building drawn up by an independent and suitably qualified assessor. This will detail the construction materials to be used, the means of escape in event of a fire, the fire safety systems in the building and how access will be given to LFB in event of a fire.

Cap the Towers says that Ealing Council has on both applications sought to conceal the content of the Fire Brigade Report and not publish the details on its web site. For the latest application the report from LFB was not published on the council’s web site until Cap the Towers learnt of its existence from the Greater London Assembly and insisted that it was added.

Cap the Towers says, “When a Council is so desperate to get such an unpopular and deeply flawed planning application passed that it will compromise TWICE on something as important as Fire Safety, by attempting to bury critical Reports from the London Fire Brigade, it is time to call such a Council to account. This is the Council that the Leader, Peter Mason, describes as ‘open, honest and transparent’.”

We have requested comment from LFB, Mount Anvil and Ealing Council.


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