Construction work on a residential scheme in east London has been halted mid-build because of fears it won’t meet new second-staircase regulations
Flanagan Lawrence is delivering a Conran and Partners’ scheme for 380 new homes in Waterloo and Queen Street site in Romford, under a design and build contract for developer Wates Residential. Demolition work began on the site in May 2021.
But Wates Residential and Havering Council announced last week (9 May) that they had made the ‘difficult decision’ to pause construction while they wait for clarity on the government’s safety legislation.
In a joint statement, the two parties said the move was ‘due to the current uncertainty regarding future building safety standards’.
Early-stage construction work had already begun on the £450 million scheme, which involves the demolition of 270 homes to be replaced with 10 residential blocks, of varying heights between three and 16 storeys.
The scheme had originally been taken to planning by Conran and Partners, as part of a 1,380-home masterplan for Havering Council, but the practice told the Architects Journal it was no longer involved in the project.
Havering Council has earmarked £1.5 billion for its ‘12 estates’ programme, aiming to deliver 3,500 new homes in the borough.
Wates and the council insisted the studio’s design for the Waterloo and Queen Street site was ‘safe and meets current building safety laws’.
The developer blamed the government for the delay, as it ‘has yet to reach a decision on new building safety legislation regarding taller buildings’.
‘Regulations are likely to change to require two staircases in buildings over 30m, so we have taken the decision to pause the development at this early point in the construction process until we have a better understanding of what the new regulations will mean,’ their statement explained.
The developer said it ‘remained committed’ to delivering the homes, vowing to establish the ‘best way forward’.
The government is proposing to make second staircases mandatory in all residential buildings over 30m to ‘achieve an appropriate level of safety’.
In December, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) ran a 12-week consultation on the proposed rule change, in order to ‘review evidence’ and understand risks such as whether ‘provision of a second staircase could make developments unviable’.
The consultation came after the DLUHC published a document on December 23, expressing concern ‘that some tall residential buildings are being designed with a single staircase without due consideration by the designers on the level of safety provided’.
In February, London mayor Sadiq Khan followed this up by announcing that all planning applications in the capital would need City Hall sign-off for second staircases.
Flanagan Lawrence’s previous completed projects include 15-storey offices on New Fetter Lane, an award-winning music centre for the University of St Andrews, and housing in Wembley Park. In 2019, the practice won an RIBA competition to design a high-density residential development in Abbey Wood.
Source: Architects Journal