Provision of lifts in upward extension using permitted development

Recent changes to the UK planning system give greater freedom for building or landowners in town centres to change use, extend upwards (up to two floors) and create new homes from the regeneration of vacant and redundant buildings.

These extensions to permitted development rights will allow these developments without the need for full planning permission provided various conditions are met (see LABC briefing). Regardless of permitted development rights, the building regulations, and other considerations such as party wall matters, build over agreements, right to light etc, will still apply.

Legislation and guidance regarding lifts


The provision of lift services within a property falls under several key elements of legislation and guidance, including The Equality Act 2010, Part M of the Building Regulations, Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998, BS 8300-2: 2018, EN81-70: 2018.

The key message from all of these standards is that accessibility and inclusivity need to be at the forefront of any development. 

For Part M, the flats that are created within the extended floors will need to comply with the applicable requirements of the building regulations, which includes Part M4. As permitted development does not allow for the application of optional requirements, the extended part will need to comply with Part M4(1) as a category 1 visitable dwelling. 

A passenger lift is the most convenient way for many people to move from one storey to another. Where a lift is provided, it should be suitable for a wheelchair user. A lift complying with BS EN 81-70 type 1 would satisfy this requirement. This standard would meet Building Regulation requirements, but a designer should consider whether this really meets the needs of the building users.

The requirements of a passenger lift for full EN81-70 compliancy are detailed in clause 5.3.1 of the Standard (Table 3), which is summarised as follows:

Type of car Minimum car dimensions (mm) Accessibility level Building type/usage
1 Width: 1000 Depth: 1300 Load: 450kg/ 6 person Accommodates one wheelchair user without an accompanying person Shall only be used in existing building when constraints prevent installation of type 2 car
2 Width: 1100 Depth: 1400 Load: 630kg/ 8 person Accommodates one wheelchair user and an accompanying person Shall be the minimum size for new buildings
3 Width: 1100 Depth: 2100 Load: 1000kg/ 13 person Accommodates one user with a Class C wheelchair and other passengers, also allows transport of stretchers Recommended size for cars in public areas

Fire safety

Any new, or extended lift enclosure will need to be constructed to comply with Part B of the building regulations. This will include Part B5 for access and facilities for the fire service.

Firefighting lifts

When the additional storeys being proposed take the building above 18m in height, other Building Regulation requirements for lifts extend beyond the general accessibility requirements, such as firefighting functionality, as detailed in BS9999: 2017 and also EN81-72: 2020. The proposals suggested in the Building Safety Bill 2020 would bring these buildings within the scope of the building safety regulator for building regulation purposes. Similarly, when additional storeys are proposed to an existing building already exceeding the 18m height threshold, the access and facility requirements for the fire service apply. These buildings would already be within the scope of the building safety regulator under the proposals in the Building Safety Bill.

Typically lifts are not used in the event of a fire, as they should return to the ground floor (main exit level) and shut down upon activation of the alarm in accordance with BS EN 81-73:2016; (Behaviour of lifts in the event of a fire). 

However, where the top storey landing exceeds 18m, firefighter lifts aid the fire and rescue service in the event of a fire and can also be used by building management as part of an emergency evacuation plan.
These lifts are part of a building’s fire strategy, with fast, reliable service from the lifts being paramount in design and to ensure the fire service can battle a blaze safely and efficiently. 

Firefighting lifts have strict design criteria (which aligns with EN81-70 requirements) for size and performance. A brief overview is detailed below:

Evacuation lifts

Evacuation lifts can be used by the building’s management to assist with the movement of any of the building’s occupants needing a step-free escape provision. The proportion of building occupant’s reliant on an alternative evacuation plan other than stairs is likely to increase with increasing height of the building. In the post Grenfell era, there is considerable scrutiny in this area and there are planned changes to the applicable standards relating to safe, swift step free vertical egress. 
The London Plan Guidance Sheet Policy D5(B5) (Greater London Authority) was published on 2 March 2021, the document states that in all developments where lifts are installed, as a minimum, at least one lift per core (or more subject to capacity assessments) should be a suitably sized evacuation lift. The minimum provisions outlined within the Fire Statement or Inclusive Design Statement should be for one evacuation lift per core within the proposed development. This will be later supported by the provision of the EN81-76 standard (Evacuation of persons with disabilities using lifts). 

Existing lifts

Where there is an existing lift shaft within the property, it means the footprint allocated for the lift installation has already been established. Where it is proposed to use an undersized existing lift shaft for compliance with the building regulations, early discussion with your local authority building control is recommended.
There may be restrictions in shaft sizes (particularly in pre-1990’s properties); however, the lift shaft is likely to be such that it can be utilised for the new lift installation (or shaft extension), depending on what lift equipment is installed.

Some things to bear in mind when extending a property with a lift:

No existing lift

This offers more of a challenge if a lift is required, as there is the need to allocate space for a lift shaft somewhere within the property. The footprint of a lift shaft is typically 2m x 2m which could impact on common parts within the property.
The alternative solution in this scenario is an external lift shaft, which can add step free access to a building where before there was none. This option offers the chance to be creative with design – matching external brickwork, or clad finishes to make a feature of the lift shaft, or even a glazed lift shaft (possibly with scenic glass doors) which could act as a lightwell to open up the building’s common parts.
The provision of an external lift shaft offers challenges, but a smart design can often limit the costs of this option, whilst enhancing the property. Utilising existing windows on an external façade for the clear openings required by a lift (1100mm wide x 2100mm high approx.) saves considerably on building works and as mentioned above glazing the lift shaft may offset any loss of light. 

Other factors to consider when providing a lift where previously there has been none:

This article was produced by Ardent and you can contact their team via their website or by calling 01394 200328.