Bureau Veritas is advising caution regarding the recent government proposal to convert high street takeaways into housing without planning permission, warning that it could pose a fire safety risk.
As part of his responsibility for local growth, Jake Berry, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, has recommended the move to ‘inject the free market into high street renewal’ and make town centres ‘flexible to change’ in the hopes of removing delays to redevelopment opportunities and alleviating the housing crisis1.
Currently, the government-permitted development rights scheme allows certain ‘change of use’ redevelopment to be carried out without planning permission2, with the most common form of change of use being turning an office into a residential unit. However, the reforms would remove restrictions that apply to high street takeaway premises to give them the same status as office buildings and warehouses, facilitating redevelopment without planning permission.
Although it makes the process more straightforward for the developer, landlords and other organisations responsible for managing the refurbishment process in a change of use building need to consider the potential implications for fire safety. Additional legislation is in place to protect occupants of residential buildings when it comes to fire safety, compared with other types of building, so the need to adapt or install correct fire safety features is paramount.
Anthony Cassidy, Health, Safety & Fire Technical Manager at Bureau Veritas, explains: “The housing shortage and particularly the increased demand for residential flats in town centres, where space is at a premium, has led to the rise in change of use buildings. This has typically focused on developers looking for opportunities to convert office premises into residential dwellings due to the slowdown of the office market – this is the first time that other building types such as takeaway premises have been mooted as a suitable alternative.
“However, whilst potentially providing more housing, more quickly, there are considerations around managing fire safety in a change of use building, as requirements for residential buildings are different to other types of building. Some developers, especially smaller operations, may not be aware of this, especially when planning permission is not required. Alongside potential loopholes within the fire safety order and planning process, this can pose a potential fire risk for future residents.”
On this basis, it’s crucial that that landlords and any other organisations responsible for managing the refurbishment process in a change of use building are aware of their responsibilities when it comes to fire safety and are mindful that these loopholes are not a means to cut corners.
Anthony adds: “It’s critical that the potential implications of managing fire safety correctly in a change of use building are considered carefully and that buildings are refurbished in accordance with local authority guidance, building regulations and for a house in multiple occupation (HMO), that it is within licensing arrangements. Ultimately, fire risk assessments for the common parts must be carried out on all change of use buildings a building is occupied to ensure resident safety.”
Bureau Veritas offers a one-stop solution for fire safety and compliance via an experienced team of technical experts.
For more information please visit www.bureauveritas.co.uk or call 0345 600 1828