Second staircase guidance could cost industry £2.7bn

Introducing second staircases to new high-rise housing towers will cost the industry £2.7bn over the next decade, official analysis has shown.

The government last week published official guidance encouraging inclusion of a second means of escape from blocks of flats taller than 18 metres.

Documents released alongside this verdict revealed that the costs of implementing the advice far outweigh the recordable benefits.

An impact assessment published by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities estimated that compliance with the government‘s preferred policy option would cost £2.679bn over the next 10 years.

The bulk of this would be in capital costs to physically build residential towers with two staircases.

A cost of £170m was attributed to lost internal space, along with £82m for transitionary arrangements such as redesigns and delays.

Purchasing land to expand the footprint of buildings would add £7m over 10 years, the analysis predicted.

Gains from the policy were seen to be relatively minor in comparison to the costs. The ‘monetised benefit’ of avoiding deaths and injuries in major and catastrophic incidents was estimated at just £9m over a decade.

The overall net cost was thus recorded as £2.670bn.

Raising the threshold for second staircase provision to 30 metres would have reduced the net cost to £1.48bn, the report showed.

Anna Clarke, director of policy and public affairs at trade body the Housing Forum, said: “We would like to see the government do more to mitigate the costs of the second staircase, particularly for the affordable housing sector.

“The additional build costs and loss of floorspace have created viability problems on some sites, and a loss of affordable housing on others. Funding is needed for the social housing sector to offset these costs.

“We would also like to see local planning authorities encouraged to be flexible over redesign and changes in height in order to accommodate a second staircase in all tall buildings without reducing the number of new homes provided.”

Announcing the new guidance, housing minister 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.”

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