Morris & Co’s 52-storey buiding hit headlines after it emerged skyscraper had only one set of stairs

Morris & Co has secured planning permission for a 52-storey residential tower in east London after reworking its designs to include a second staircase following safety concerns from the London Fire Brigade.

The practice’s 421-home proposals, drawn up for Anglo-Irish developer Ballymore, were pulled from a Tower Hamlets strategic development committee agenda in January when the strength of LFB’s feelings about the lack of a second means of fire escape became apparent.

Tower Hamlets planning officers had already recommended the scheme – earmarked for a site on Cuba Street, on the Isle of Dogs – for approval. Current regulations allow residential tower blocks to be built with just a single means of escape, where the design allows for a “stay-put” strategy in the event of a fire.


Source: Morris & Co / Ballymore

Morris & Co’s Cuba Street proposals for Ballymore

Many other countries require at least two fire escapes for tall buildings, and critics say such designs ignore the lessons from the Grenfell Tower fire, where “stay put” advice left residents who remained on that building’s upper floors trapped, costing them their lives.

Morris & Co’s reworking of the Cuba Street scheme has taken out one of the building’s three lifts to provide an additional staircase that can be accessed by all floors.

A planning statement submitted to Tower Hamlets in support of the change said the size of the three remaining lifts proposed would be increased and that they would operate more quickly to meet waiting time requirements. The document said that other than the new staircase, the proposals were unchanged from January.

LFB’s original comments argued that the proposals did “not provide suitable and convenient means of escape and associated evacuation strategy for all building users”, as required by the 2021 London Plan.

An update to last week’s strategic development committee meeting included an LFB response expressing appreciation for Morris & Co and Ballymore’s design changes. It added: “We also welcome additional meetings and communication with the Ballymore, the design team and THBC to understand the further development of the design prior to the official building regulations consultation.”

Recommending the scheme for approval, Tower Hamlets planning officers said the tower would be well proportioned and “of appropriately high architectural quality”.

The plans will also deliver a new 1,630sq m park at the site, which is south-east of Canary Wharf.

Other firms working on the scheme include Pick Everard as adviser to the principal designer, WSP as structural engineer and fire consultant and Rolfe Judd as planning consultant.