What is the London Plan 2021?

‘The London Plan is the strategic planning guide for the capital and sets out an economic, environmental, transport and social framework for development across the city.’[1]

Mayor Sadiq Khan unveiled his London Plan in early 2021, after a year of hold-ups and delays.

The plan includes a number of key policies, stemming from key messages included in Khan’s Election Manifesto, which will support London’s recovery from the Coronavirus pandemic, including

  • space and quality standards for new-build properties to ensure they’re a decent size and have better fire safety,

  • tackling poor air quality, ensuring Londoners have access to open and green spaces,

  • increasing local community infrastructure such as schools and medical facilities, and

  • helping high streets and town centres thrive across the capital by helping them adapt and include a mix of retail, leisure, and workspaces.[2][3]

Cover image of The London Plan, featuring a map of London made up of tiny buildings and trees, with the River Thames running through the shape.

Does the London Plan mention fire safety?

Policies D5 (B4 & 5) and D12 both relate closely to Fire Safety more overtly, with slightly differing focuses.

Policy D5, Inclusive Design

B4: (Buildings should be) able to be entered, used and exited safely, easily and with dignity for all

5: (Buildings should) be designed to incorporate safe and dignified emergency evacuation for all building users. In all developments where lifts are installed, as a minimum, at least one lift per core (or more subject to capacity assessments) should be a suitably sized fire evacuation lift suitable to be used to evacuate people who require level access from the building.[4]

This policy relates specifically to individuals with differing needs, to ensure that their access, usage, and emergency exit of a building would have been considered.

In the care sector, evacuation needs are considered and planned for, in documents denoted PEEPs, or Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans. These cover how a service user will enter, use, and exit the building, especially in an emergency. For an example PEEP, see below.

An example PEEP, which outlines the agreed evacuation plan that is based entirely on the needs and potential disabilities of building users.

An example PEEP, which outlines the agreed evacuation plan that is based entirely on the needs and potential disabilities of building users.[5]

The more inclusive designs covered in the London Plan will consider building use from perspectives not always considered and will ensure that should a large-scale fire occur, all building users can be safely evacuated, unlike during the Grenfell disaster.

The “stay put” policy in place at Grenfell Tower has already been identified by the inquiry as increasing the death toll. Fifteen of the 37 residents classed as vulnerable in the block were among the 72 killed.[6]

Policy D12, Fire Safety

This policy relates predominantly to space, building materials, fire measures, fire equipment, and a third-party, independently verified fire strategy.

By overtly considering risks such as:

  • fire appliance access,

  • the use of fire alarms, alongside active & passive fire measures,

  • materials and design that minimise fire spread, and

  • evacuation procedures,

it is hoped that the general level of fire safety in London buildings will rise perceptibly, making all buildings within the capital safer for all, and removing both the possibility and potential consequences, of further large-scale fires.

“The current building safety situation is a scandal and I am concerned that almost five years after the tragedy at Grenfell Tower, it appears that the government are still not willing to properly address it. That’s why I’ve been using all the tools at my disposal to raise the standard of fire safety measures in London, through requirements for developers in my London Plan, and lobbying developers and building owners to share vital fire safety information with residents.”[7]
Building a Safer Future cover page to the final report.

Khan’s plans for London mirror Dame Judith Hackitt’s recommendations,[8] as set out in the Building Safety Bill 2021, which sets out to

‘overhaul regulations, create lasting generational change, [and] set out a clear pathway on how residential buildings should be constructed, maintained and made safe.’[9]

By providing a planning-to-refurb model for future London construction, which incorporates building materials and structure and more careful consideration of building usage, building users can be sure that construction is of the utmost quality, with all safety aspects considered, ensuring that ‘Londoners, their properties and members of the Fire and Rescue service,’ are, and remain, safe.[10]

Should the rules be different in the capital versus the rest of the country?

As with the Building Safety Bill 2021, the London Plan is segregational.

The Building Safety Act 2021, which encompasses the Golden Thread of Information, was only ever going to be aimed at HRRBs, High Risk Residential Buildings, 18m or higher, since the Hackitt guidance stemmed from investigations into the Grenfell Tower disaster.

We see this division again with the London Plan. While it is extremely beneficial to those in the London, it creates a difference in building expectations inside and outside of the capital that could leave building users who are in any other region exposed to lesser quality building construction, and therefore more dangerous buildings.

For no reason other than geographical location.

Instead of ringfencing extra protection for buildings in the country’s capital, surely wider, faster, and more systemic change across the construction industry would be better applied across the entirety of the UK.

This extra protection for all would ensure that in buildings across the nation, people living with, or without disabilities have the same protection from flammable construction materials, poor evacuation procedures, inaccessible emergency egress routes, and live in truly safe homes.

Starting a system of change that is utilised much faster by some regions or counties alone runs the risk of creating further confusion within an already complex industry, that is struggling to implement change quickly enough to undo years of ‘race-to-the-bottom’ thinking, within the financially impactful backdrop of a post-Brexit, Covid-19 economy.

So, although the London Plan could be considered advantageous to some, it could be argued that further separation in construction requirements across the country will only add fuel to the fire of construction confusion and safety risks, especially for those living with disabilities. [11]

_________________________________________________________________________ [1] London.gov.uk, ‘Mayor hails delivery of his new London Plan to support city's recovery,’ published 29.01.2021, <https://www.london.gov.uk/press-releases/mayoral/mayor-hails-delivery-of-his-new-london-plan> [2] London.gov.uk, ‘Mayor hails delivery of his new London Plan to support city's recovery,’ published 29.01.2021, <https://www.london.gov.uk/press-releases/mayoral/mayor-hails-delivery-of-his-new-london-plan> [3] Image of The London Plan, ‘THE SPATIAL DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY FOR GREATER LONDON,’ March 2021, <https://www.london.gov.uk/sites/default/files/the_london_plan_2021.pdf> [4] The London Plan, ‘THE SPATIAL DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY FOR GREATER LONDON,’ March 2021, <https://www.london.gov.uk/sites/default/files/the_london_plan_2021.pdf> page 122- 124. [5] Example PEEP document, taken from University of Oxford, University Safety Office, <https://safety.admin.ox.ac.uk/files/personalemergencyevacuationplanpdf> 11.04.2022 [6] The Guardian, ‘Grenfell landlord ‘did not create escape plans for disabled residents,’ published 06.05.2021, by Robert Booth <theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/may/06/grenfell-landlord-did-not-create-escape-plans-for-disabled-residents > [7] Mayor Sadiq Khan quoted on IFSECGlobal.com, ‘Mayor’s fire safety plan for London aims to exceed national building regulations,’ published 06.04.2022 by Ron Alalouff, <https://www.ifsecglobal.com/fire-news/mayors-fire-safety-plan-for-london-aims-to-exceed-national-building-regulations/> [8] Image of ‘Building a Safer Future’ document,’ taken from Gov.uk, ‘Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety: final report,’ published 17.05.2018 <https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/independent-review-of-building-regulations-and-fire-safety-final-report> [9] Gov.UK, ‘Building Safety Bill,’ published 05.07.2021, <https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/building-safety-bill#factsheets> [10] FSM, issue 24: March 2022, ‘Mayor consults Londoners on guidelines to improve fire safety,’ page 12. [11] Image from Pixabay.com.

Cover image from Pexels.com, courtesy of Olga Lioncat

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