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Questions being asked if West Ealing’s 55 West development will meet new safety rules

Campaigning group Stop The Towers (STT) has expressed concerns that housing developments of 30m or more in Ealing may be rushed through without having to comply with planned new government rules that require buildings to have two staircases.

In December 2022, the government ran a 12 week consultation of its plans and is currently analysing the results.

Stop The Towers has cited 55 West located in Manor Road in West Ealing as a development of concern in a recent posting on its website.

The group said: “STT have examined the plans to see if a second staircase has been added. But no – it still only has one and with 18 storeys, a double height mezzanine and a roof plant, taking it up to 21 storeys, it’s double that of the required two staircase height limit.

“The Manor Road tower is a joint project between Southern Grove and well known housing association Metropolitan Thames Valley Housing (MTVH).  Surely a reputable housing association like MTVH is not trying to flout safety rules in Ealing?

Computer generated image of 55 West in West Ealing
Computer generated image of 55 West in West Ealing

“Whilst a short transition period for any new regulation is reasonable, the Manor Road tower site has been derelict for nearly 18 months, with no work begun on the development, so we really hope they’re not trying to rush the start of construction through to get around these crucial national safety regulations?

“So what Ealing residents might find unbelievable, is news that work on towers like the Manor Road tower, which is over 30m tall (so would be subject to these safety regulations), are being rushed through, so they commence before these rules come fully into force.”

Stop The Towers further added: “MTVH are only too familiar with fire regulations following a fire in one of their properties in Worcester Park in 2019.  So let’s hope they rethink their approach, and redesign the Manor Road tower to ensure the safety of residents is put first. Or better still scrap this controversial scheme altogether.

“Surely Council Leader Peter Mason is not going to stand by and let this happen on his watch?”

In December 2022, the organisation that represents Fire Chiefs called for mandatory two staircases on buildings taller than 18m.

Gavin Tomlinson, chair of the protection and business safety scrutiny committee at the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) , said: “We are calling on the government to ensure that all new high-rise residential buildings over 18 metres, or seven storeys, have more than one fire escape staircase. In the event of a fire, a correctly designed second staircase removes the risk of a single point of failure, buying critical time for firefighting activities and providing residents with multiple escape routes.”

A spokesperson for MTVH told EALING.NEWS: “We fully understand the fundamental importance of fire safety in all new housing and always comply with government regulations and requirements. This modern housing development in Ealing, which we are providing affordable homes for, has been signed off by the London Fire Brigade and meets all Building Regulations and British Standards.

They added: “We have been working with fire engineers throughout the design and initial build and can confirm the building will have best practice fire safety features including sprinklers throughout, evacuation alert systems and fire-fighting lifts.

“We are closely following the ongoing debate at government level about whether there should be the requirement of a second staircase for buildings above 30 metres and will always comply with any future regulation around this.”

In February 2023, while awaiting the new Government plans to be implemented, the Greater London Authority (GLA) planning department told developers that it will only consider developments that have two staircases. It said: “The Mayor has consistently expressed concerns that the fire safety requirements in the national Building Regulations are not fit for purpose, so the proposed strengthened requirements and clear direction at the national level are strongly supported.

“This government consultation envisages a very short transition period with new developments being encouraged to prepare for this change now.

“In light of this we are clear that, with immediate effect, all planning applications which involve residential buildings over 30m in height will need to be designed to provide two staircases before they are referred to us at Stage 2 for the Mayor’s decision.”

A Ealing Council spokesperson told EALING.NEWS: “Developers are aware of the new direction from the Mayor of London that a second staircase will be required in all buildings over 30 metres, and many are currently reviewing their plans.”

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