Managing Editor, IFSEC Insider

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James Moore is the Managing Editor of IFSEC Insider, the leading online publication for security and fire news in the industry.James writes, commissions, edits and produces content for IFSEC Insider, including articles, breaking news stories and exclusive industry reports. He liaises and speaks with leading industry figures, vendors and associations to ensure security and fire professionals remain abreast of all the latest developments in the sector.
July 4, 2023


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Conversion from Worthing retail premises to residential flats delayed due to fire safety concerns

Plans to convert a former retail store to a multi-residential block of flats in Worthing have been delayed due to concerns around fire safety. 


Image credit: Rawf8/AlamyStock

The Argus has reported that the application from Craig Developments to develop the site – previously a Debenhams retail store – into 79 flats and new retail space on the ground floor has been put on hold following a borough council planning meeting in early June.

The main issue, according to the report, relates to the floor layouts, with bedrooms only accessible through high-risk kitchen areas. The council’s Environmental Health Private Sector Housing Officer also didn’t believe “the problems can be engineered out with sprinklers”.

While the council says it’s behind the proposals, it is unwilling to give the go ahead until fire safety issues are ironed out. The committee voted unanimously to defer the application until a satisfactory outcome had been reached on the issue.

The trend of repurposing commercial buildings to residential housing continues was put into focus in 2021 when then-Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick, announced new planning laws that enabled unused commercial buildings to be changed into homes. The move was designed to “diversify… town and city centres” and encourage conversions.

However, as IFSEC Insider reported a few months later in October 2021, the move was bound to challenge those responsible persons charged with the fire safety of the premises. As this project demonstrates, commercial buildings are used very differently to residential, and fire safety engineering is likely to be a challenge to convert.

Issues range from compartmentation measures, the challenges of open-plan conversion, ventilation and means of escape differences and general fire strategy adaptations.

Further reading: The fire safety hazards of ‘quick-fix’ repurposing of commercial buildings for residential housing


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