Milton Keynes

MILTON KEYNES Council and Buckingham Council have called for the local fire authority to have ‘a say on planning applications for high rise buildings’ post Grenfell.

Bucks Free Press reported on the views of both councils, which administer Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes Fire Authority - including Buckinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service (BFRS) – and which are ‘demanding a say’ on planning applications for high rises post Grenfell in the area. The news outlet noted that BFRS among other fire and rescue services (FRSs) ‘are constantly updating how they deal with fire safety in tall buildings’.

Milton Keynes Council’s David Hopkins stated, at a recent meeting of the fire authority, that: ‘I think it is absolutely imperative that we as a fire authority do lobby strongly both Milton Keynes Council and Buckinghamshire Council to ensure we have a seat at the table when development proposals for high rise buildings in particular are being brought forward.

‘We have an application coming forward in Milton Keynes for the redevelopment of Saxon Court in the city centre. It will be an iconic building but the fire authority has to be at the table discussing all the fire safety issues from day one. We can’t be involved retrospectively – we can’t be asked at some later date to give some viewpoints. We have to be there right at the start.

‘Not just looking backwards but looking forwards as to how the fire authority can be absolutely involved in ongoing developments, especially iconic developments for the likes of Milton Keynes and the other major settlements.’

Buckinghamshire Council’s chair, Lesley Clarke, agreed and added that a letter had been drafted requesting BFRS be made into a ‘statutory consultee’ by both councils’ planning departments, with such consultees able to have their say on planning applications. The meeting heard that with fire safety regulations changing to include inspections of buildings 11m or taller, ‘the precise details of when’ FRSs would get involved in applications would be discussed at a later meeting this week.

That meeting would also cover their involvement ‘whether for plans taller than 11m or 18m’, with Milton Keynes Council’s Keith McLean adding: ‘As someone who has sat on the development control committee of Milton Keynes Council for many years I very much support the additional recommendation.’

The authority meeting also heard that it had received government funding to ‘accelerate the completion’ of its inspections of all 32 buildings 18m or above in the area by the end of December 2021, as well as having received funding to inspect other high risk buildings. These included 476 between 11m and 18m, consisting of 209 care homes, 18 educational buildings, 528 houses in multiple occupation, 27 hospitals, 142 hotels, and 922 sheltered and supported housing buildings.

Background papers for the meeting added: ‘Focus must not be lost on the people who live [in] and occupy these buildings. By giving information in a timely and appropriate manner, they will be reassured, therefore maintaining the confidence of the people in Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes in their fire and rescue service.’