Replacement or removal of external fire escapes in flats or maisonettes

You must apply for building regulations approval before you start work on replacing or removing a fire escape.

Replacing a fire escape

To replace a fire escape - be it stairs or interlinking balconies - with one of a similar design, you must submit a Full Plans application.

As part of your application, you must include:

  • structural details showing how the stairs or balconies will be supported
  • general fabrication details from your supplier
  • the size of the treads, handrails, balustrades and so on

Removing a fire escape

You may be allowed to remove a fire escape, but it depends on the height of the building and the circumstances of your case.

In general, we suggest you should first always consider keeping the fire escape.

If removing the fire escape looks like the best or only option, you must submit a Full Plans building regulations application.

You must also include a fire risk assessment. This should include measures needed to compensate for the removal of the fire escape. We'll consult with the fire service, and if those measures are considered adequate, we may give consent.

If the building is more than 4 storeys above a basement or ground level then it is unlikely that we will give consent to remove the fire escape. However, the following measures may support your case if you want to remove it:

  • install full fire suppression/sprinklers throughout the building
  • provide a lobby outside the entrance of any flat opening onto the internal escape
  • install a fire engineered pressurisation system which prevents smoke entering stairways

What building regulations require for removal of a fire escape

When we decide on whether a fire escape can be removed we consider the height of the floors in the property, from the ground. We also look at what we call 'protected routes' and 'inner rooms'

Protected routes

A protected route is a passageway, including staircases, that can't become smoke-logged or a fire risk in itself for a significant period of time.

To successfully be a protected route, there must be:

  • flat or maisonette entrance doors that can resist fire for 30 minutes - they must be self-closing with intumescent and cold smoke seals
  • an internal hallway in each flat, separating the habitable rooms of the flat or maisonette
  • doors and walls that can resist fire for more than 30 minutes in each flat or maisonette's hallway to each of the habitable rooms.

Inner rooms

An inner room is a room which you can't exit directly to your front door. You have to go through another room to get to the front door and/or hallway. 

For instance, you may have to walk through your living room from your kitchen to get to the hallway and front door. The kitchen, in this case, is the inner room.

When we'll definitely turn down removal

You cannot, by the current building regulations, remove a fire escape if:

  • any floor in the property is above 4.5 metres from ground level and there is no protected route
  • you've an inner room where the room's floor is higher than 4.5 metres from ground level
  • you've an inner rooms situation where the room is lower than 4.5 metres from ground level, but the window isn't large enough for an adult to escape from.

Fire alarm systems

You may need a full BS5839 Part 6: Category LD2 fire alarm system installed throughout the building. If you do, you'll need to regularly test and maintain this system.

If you have to make internal alterations to provide a protected route, or rearrange flat layouts to remove inner rooms, you may need to alter the fire alarm system.

If you do this, you'll need to provide a revised commissioning statement from us, which outlines how it's installed from the fire alarm installers.