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Removal of fire escape

Discussion in 'Building Regulations and Planning Permission' started by Andy Unique, 11 Sep 2020.

  1. Andy Unique

    Andy Unique

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    Hi,

    I have just purchased a house which has a bedroom and adjoining box room in the attic. The box room has an external fire escape staircase which looks home made and while solid enough is too steep, doesn't have very good safety bannisters and also feels like all the treads are inclined slightly forwards like it wants to tip you off. It also terminates in a really inconvenient location, almost blocking access to the door of an outbuilding.

    So, I would like to get rid of it, and I'm trying to establish who I should speak to (what type of contractor/which organisation) to find out what we could do within the rules to remove the need for the fire escape, or what other type of fire escape we could have that would remove the obstruction. I am aware that my council's buildings control people would provide this advice, but I'm a bit wary in case I bring it to their attention and they decide something needs to be done and compel me to sort it out urgently, when I would prefer to slot it in around the other 'new house' spending priorities I have.

    Who should I look for to get trustworthy advice on this?

    Many thanks..
     
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  3. frutbunn

    frutbunn

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    First thing to establish is which floor level is the bedroom/boxroom?
     
    Last edited: 11 Sep 2020
  4. bernardgreen

    bernardgreen

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    If they do then it will be to try and ensure the safety of you and your family should there be a fire in the house.
     
  5. frutbunn

    frutbunn

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    They won't be able to as the work will most likely have been completed over a year and they are statute barred from taking enforcement.
     
  6. Andy Unique

    Andy Unique

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    The work will have been done more than 6 years ago as it was done before the ownership of the people we have bought the house from.

    It’s a second floor attic room. Door is on the first floor, stairs up to a large main room in which the wife and I sleep. Off of that room to one side is a bathroom with no emergency exit, off of the main room on the other side is another room that we use as storage/wardrobe which has a door in the wall leading to the home brew fire escape staircase.

    To the safety point, I t’s not a case of avoiding making things safe, it’s a case of getting good information without attracting any compulsion orders so that the work can be folded in with other priorities and building work.

    In our case we have two young kids so the fire escape from our room is useless in the short term anyway as there’s no circumstance where we wouldn’t have to go down to the first floor on the way out.
     
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  8. frutbunn

    frutbunn

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    If it is a dressing room then it is acceptable providing the access room (bedroom) has smoke detection and this should be linked to the smoke detection in the stairs. Additional stairs are normally only required to dwellings if a floor level exceeds 7.5m above ground level, ie 4 storey.

    Please note I am making the assumption that the loft was converted to comply with B Regs at the time of the conversion.

    Edit -Something else that occurred to me I'd thought I'd better mention, the additional stairs may have been installed as a compensatory measure for an alternative escape if for example the main stairs were not protected at the ground floor ie open plan, although this would be very unusual, i've certainly yet to encounter it.
     
    Last edited: 11 Sep 2020
  9. ^woody^

    ^woody^

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    Contact the council and ask about the past work and what was specified and approved. This will tell you if the escape was ever a requirement.
     
  10. frutbunn

    frutbunn

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    Assuming its not a private inspector.
     
  11. Andy Unique

    Andy Unique

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    Speaking to the council direct does seem the easiest way to get a clear answer. What’s the actual likelihood that they compel you to fix anything rather than just give advice?

    I should be clear that I’m not actually aware that there’s anything wrong with the place as it is, so I could be being a bit paranoid. It’s just that there are a number of other issues that need addressing and I don’t want to have to reorder work just to tick some boxes if the guy at the council happens to be having a bad day.
     
  12. frutbunn

    frutbunn

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    Your first port of call is to contact the LA authority Building Control, they will confirm if a B Reg app or an initial notice from a private inspector was received, or even retrospective approval (Regularisation Certificate) issued, they will also be able to confirm the date the work was carried out as the guidance on loft conversions has changed relatively recently and you can establish which edition of the approved document was used for guidance.

    Assuming the LA dealt with the the original work, they will have records and possibly plans of the work, though it may have been done on a building notice. They will be able to elucidate if there were any unusual means of escape issues regarding the additional stairs and advise on any proposed alterations. "If it is a dressing room then it is acceptable providing the access room (bedroom) has smoke detection and this should be linked to the smoke detection in the stairs" this is a possible solution, I've assumed there is smoke detection in the stairs but as a precise date of construction has not been given this might not be the case.

    If it was private inspector the LA will be able to confirm if this is the case, but will have no further information, whether a private inspector will discuss this is up to them. The LA should discuss any new alterations but obviously won't have access to the private inspectors records so you will need to explain the layout etc with them.

    If there is no record and the work was carried out illegally, the LA are statute barred from taking any enforcement and cannot force you to carry out any alterations, any subsequent alterations must not result in the work being any less compliant. The LA might not discuss this without you giving your name and address of the property as its not unusual for someone to do this to get another interpretation of the regs in another LA area, be warned though, we used to create a record of the illegal work but not all LA do this. If the work was carried out illegally you can choose to apply for retrospective approval only with the LA but this may involve altering/opening up work, but again you are not legally obligated to do this.
     
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