Development planning banner


Development Planning Advice


As part of our series of expert analysis on the threat that fire poses to commercial properties, Glenn Woolley, Senior Risk Management Consultant at NFU Mutual Risk Management Services Limited, looks at how businesses can help ensure buildings perform to a higher standard of fire safety for longer.

Fire safety regulations

Whatever type of commercial property your business owns, it’ll have to meet certain regulations regarding the threat of fire. Yet, these standards often only represent the tip of what preventative measures are available. In our experience, one of the best ways to protect your business is to always go beyond what the law demands. By factoring such considerations into the planning phase of development, you can help avoid expensive upgrades and refits in the future.

The legal minimum 

When it comes to fire risk, architects and building managers tend to focus on the five requirements stated by the government’s Regulatory Fire Safety Approved Document B. These are:  

  • Requirement B1: Means of warning and escape 
  • Requirement B2: Internal fire spread (linings)
  • Requirement B3: Internal fire spread (structure)
  • Requirement B4: External fire spread
  • Requirement B5: Access and facilities for the fire service 

While these objectives are obviously paramount, the document itself states “the Building Regulations are intended to ensure a reasonable standard of life safety in a fire. The protection of property including the building itself, often requires additional measures”, Section 0.7 Fire Safety Approved Document B.

Development Planning Advice

If your business is growing, and you’re committing to a new building or extension project, then you should consider going beyond minimum regulatory standards, to incorporate Development Planning Advice. 

Best practice

Development Planning Advice is expert guidance that exceeds legal building requirements and takes into account a broad range of factors and trends that can save you time and money in the long run. It includes information on suitable construction materials, the safest layouts, the most effective locations for equipment, and appropriate building processes. Further sections cover issues such as how to reduce the likelihood of initial ignition, how to use compartmentalisation to contain any damage, and how to prevent premature structural collapse. There is even guidance on limiting the damage from firefighters’ water and the environmental impact caused by fire effluent.

Exceeding regulatory obligations will almost certainly be of benefit to your business in the future. Naturally, there are upfront costs to consider, however by incorporating this guidance into your plans from the start, you can protect your business against any unpleasant surprises, and, ultimately, boost efficiencies within your business.

Planning ahead

Pursuing a proactive strategy on fire safety provides many benefits to businesses. In addition to protecting valuable stock and infrastructure, it increases the attractiveness to insurers, which helps to manage running costs year on year.

The lesson for managers of commercial property is a clear one. By seeking and acting on Development Planning Advice early in any building or renovation process, you’ll be better able to protect your investment, strengthen the resilience of your business, and maximise the opportunities for growth.

For more information on how NFU Mutual can help safeguard your business, get in touch with your local office.

NFU Mutual Risk Management Services Limited is a subsidiary of NFU Mutual and is committed to providing a high level of guidance and advice on many aspects of health and safety including Development Planning Advice.

More on fire safety