Housing association giant has 2,000 affordable homes on hold

Clarion is the latest housing developer to halt work on high-rises due to uncertainty over proposed new rules requiring second staircases.

Richard Cook, group director of development, told Building’s sister title Housing Today that the housing association giant has 15 schemes above 30m in height where work is now “moving at a snail’s pace or not moving”.

Cook said: “Those schemes equate to more than 2,000 affordable homes that we could be building but we can’t.” Cook added these were “oven-ready” schemes with planning approval in place.

High rise staircase shutterstock 2

The government last December published a consultation paper proposing all blocks over 30m in height include a second staircase. The government has said a second staircase can reduce conflicts between firefighters entering a building and those trying to escape, providing a second means of escape for residents and prevent smoke entering escape stairwells.

The mayor of London Sadiq Khan announced in February that all new blocks over 30m in the capital would need to have a second staircase to be signed off.

However, developers are waiting to see the detail of the government’s new rules and changes to legislation so they know how to design buildings to be compliant.

Cook said: “I don’t want to build a building that does not meet legislation nine months out, so we put them on hold.”

Cook said the uncertainty was around technical details, including whether second lifts are required and if so of what type. Cook said he believes uncertainty might not come until building regulations are ‘bottomed’ out in October.

He added that Clarion is in discussions with the local authorities and the London Fire Brigade about how to respond to the legislation that “we think is coming but it hasn’t been defined yet.” 

Clarion is just the latest developer to talk publicly about how the uncertainty is affecting its development pipeline. Consultants Lambert Smith Hampton and Connells have warned 125,000 homes across London could face delays.

>> Also read: What the second staircase rule would mean for high-rise blocks

In March London housing association Peabody warned of ‘dramatic delays’ to its development programme, saying it can’t commit to designs across 20 towers without further clarity over new rules.

Developer Landsec has submitted fresh designs for its 1,800-revelopment of the O2 shopping centre in Camden to include a second staircase, while Westminster Council has ordered a redesign of its 1,100-home Church Street regeneration scheme in Marylebone.

Berkeley Homes has said it will shift its focus to low-rises if the 30m rule comes into effect.

Wates and Havering Council last week paused work on a 1,380-home estate regeneration scheme.