Paul Wilkins, Chair of the ACAI examines how the Housing Standards Review will be implemented by both building control and councils…
October 2015 sees the implementation of the Housing Standards Review (HSR). This forms part of a number initiatives by the previous government to reduce planning and regulatory barriers in the hope of encouraging new housing development. These initiatives included; the Red Tape Challenge, the Deregulation Bill, the Housing Standards Review and the Infrastructure Bill.
The thinking behind the HSR was to reduce bureaucracy and costs, reform and simplify frameworks, make the house-building process easier to navigate, reduce contradictions and overlap and allow local choice. The outcome was to replace the large number of guidance documents often referred to in the planning process with a set of optional national technical standards.
March 2015 saw the launch of the new approach and set of appropriate national standards.
The new standards are; optional building regulations for access and water efficiency, a new nationally described space standard (planning standard), and a new mandatory security standard added to building regulations (Part Q).
Other outcomes include a Planning Written Ministerial Statement which outlines policy on the application of the new standards for developing local plans and the decision making process, with the relevant powers being facilitated by the Deregulation Act 2015. The Code for Sustainable Homes is no longer applicable other than for certain legacy projects.
The impact assessment for this new approach indicates that house builders and councils should save in the region of £100m.
The transition for these arrangements started in March 2015 and ends at the end of September 2015 and from a building control point of view is as follows:
- Part Q and Building Regulations optional standards not applicable before 1 October 2015;
- These cannot be applied through planning permission where a building notice, full plans deposit or initial notice given before that date;
- Any planning condition on security, access or water efficiency imposed where the building regulations application is given before 1 October, will be only a planning condition and not a building regulations requirement and therefore will not be enforced by Building Control Bodies (BCB).
The key issues for BCB are:
- 2015 Regulations made changes to the building control system in respect of optional requirements;
- Optional requirements will be imposed by Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) as planning conditions;
- Person carrying out work will be responsible for informing building control that a condition has been applied;
- Compliance with optional requirement conditions will be overseen by BCB (local authorities or approved inspectors);
- Enforcement will be through the building control system, if there is a failure to meet the optional requirement.
- New mandatory security standard has been added to building regulations – Part Q – and will be overseen by building control bodies.
LPAs will need to consider how existing local plan policies will affect local decisions, consider if optional standards are a need by gathering evidence and applying viability costing analysis. This may need a partial plan review. It is important that LPAs do not add additional non-Government Standards or refer to the Code for Sustainable Homes in their plans.
These are indeed interesting times for building control as there appears to be a desire from government for further deregulation and cost saving by looking at other overlapping regulations and standards that apply to housing and perhaps even the commercial sector and bring them into the building control arena.
Chief Executive at Butler and Young Group
Chairman at Association of Consultant Approved Inspectors (ACAI)