Tower twice as high as Grenfell planned nearby with only one stairway. There is concern that the building, which will house up to 1,000 people and cost £150 million ($205m), could have catastrophic consequences for anyone who falls from its height of 185 metres (607 feet).
A proposed development near Westfield in west London is seen in this drawing. Developers had hoped for a 45-story skyscraper, but this has now been reduced to 35 (photo courtesy of Hammersmith and Fulham Planning Department/Westfield).
Developers want to construct a 35-story residential tower less than a mile from Grenfell Tower with just one stairway.
The new skyscraper is planned for one of Westfield London’s remaining construction plots near White City.
It would be around double the height of Grenfell Tower, where a fire killed 72 people in 2017.
A campaign organization representing survivors and bereaved people is outraged that a skyscraper this tall, with just one escape stairway, is being proposed so close to the catastrophe.
The tower’s safety calculations, like those at Grenfell, are predicated on the’stay put’ approach, which assumes that the structure is well-designed enough to prevent the fire from spreading beyond the unit where it started.
Tall buildings are allowed to have just one staircase under current standards, but the government is reconsidering the limits on escape routes ‘to guarantee inhabitants are safe in the event of a fire.’
‘After half a decade of working for safer housing, it’s startling to learn that a new tower block, a stone’s throw from Grenfell, is being planned, fitted with a fire safety fault before it’s even completed,’ Grenfell United, a group representing survivors and bereaved, told the Guardian.
If planning approval is granted after a formal application, the new skyscraper, which would be roughly 130 meters tall, will be just over 600 meters from Grenfell Tower, which stands at 67.3 meters.
Earlier last month, the adjacent Grenfell Tower was photographed (Picture: Rex)
It will be part of a larger construction that will feature a second tower with just one stairway.
Ballaway’s plans for a 51-story skyscraper with a single stairwell in east London were placed on hold last week after fire safety experts criticized the design.
When it comes to stairwells in big structures, several nations have tougher regulations than the United Kingdom. In the United States, every structure with more than four stories must include a second staircase. Any structure taller than 60 meters in Germany or Switzerland is required to include a second stairwell.
One fear is that if there is only one stairway, firemen attempting to climb up to rescue those remaining inside might block people from leaving, and vice versa.
If one stairwell becomes blocked or clogged with smoke, it signifies there is no other way out.
Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield (URW), a worldwide firm that owns Westfield retail malls, is the developer.
They want to ‘increasing the densification of great and highly linked retail hotspots by adding offices, residences, hotels, and other uses,’ according to their statement.
Planning clearance has previously been given for 1,100 residences in up to 23-story towers, but the developer claims that the region has ‘undergone considerable change’ since the agreement in 2014, and they now want to ‘improve’ the plans.
The owner of the Westfield retail mall has put up the plans (Picture: Getty)
According to a website promoting the project, the designs “meet all needed building fire safety regulations.”
The business said, “We are also working closely with the local government planning department and in cooperation with the London Fire Brigade to ensure the Application is in compliance with rules.”
Sprinklers in all residential dwellings, 100 percent non-combustible materials in facades, covered emergency escape routes, secure evacuation and egress techniques, and emergency stair smoke extract ventilation, according to the designs.
‘Building safety is a key priority for any of our developments, and as part of the design process, we have engaged a fire engineer to ensure that access and egress arrangements for fire brigades and occupants comply with the London Plan guidelines and meet all required building safety protocols,’ a URW spokesperson said.
‘We also work closely with the planning department of the local council, which in turn works directly with the London Fire Brigade to verify that applications are compliant with legislation.’ Other mitigating measures, such as sprinklers throughout the structures and the use of 100 percent non-combustible facades, are also in place.’
‘The safety of people is our number one concern,’ said a representative for the London borough of Hammersmith and Fulham’s planning department.
‘We take a rigorous stance with developers, requiring that everything they construct is at a minimum completely compliant with all safety and other standards, as well as thorough consultation with local residents.’
A representative for the fire department stated they will respond to the planning consultation.
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