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The end for building regs as we know them?

The government has taken the first steps to ‘significantly’ cut back ‘complex and confusing’ building regulations in a bid to kickstart development

According to The Guardian, the Department for Communities and Local Government has set up a four-man ‘challenge panel’ with a ‘free rein’ to look at how to rationalise ‘the entire framework of building regulations and national and local housing standards….to make homebuilding easier’.

The move, which comes just weeks after the government mooted a temporary ‘planning free-for-all’ for home extensions, could potentially spell the end for standards relating to structure (Part A), fire safety (Part B), energy use (Part L) and disabled access (Part M).

A department spokesman told the AJ: ‘The government is determined to support developers and councils to get on with the job of building the high-quality new homes the country needs.’

He added: ‘The current system of overlapping, different standards is complex and confusing to local residents and developers. This review brings the Government together with house builders, planners, councils and architects to establish what the unnecessary measures are that we can cut out of the system. This will make way for simpler set of housing standards that ensure buildings are still made to exacting standards.’

Architect Sam Webb, who surveyed hundreds of tower blocks across the country in the early 1990s, said: ‘Building regulations are only minimum requirements and they are there for a reason - the public has every right to expect that the buildings they enter are safe.

‘Waiving building regs and health and safety is not the way to produce more homes. All that will do is produce a UK equivalent of Priory Hall in Dublin [evacuated last October].

He added:’Self-regulation seems to be the mantra of this government which cites unnecessary burdens being placed on business by regulations. So their solution is to tear up the rules. We have seen where that has got us with the banks.’

The Guardian reported that the review group is expected to report to ministers by the spring (2013) and that the review only applied to home building standards.

Comment:

Geoff Wilkinson, the AJ’s building regulations expert and managing director of approved inspectors Wilkinson Construction
‘I don’t think that anyone is seriously suggesting the repeal of Building Regulations, and the Guardian report is a touch sensationalist.

‘However there is an enormous amount of duplication, confusion and unnecessary regulation within the current system, and it would be great if this was removed into a more sensible and streamlined Building Control system.

There is an enormous amount of duplication, confusion and unnecessary regulation

‘For a start there are local acts which date back to the 1930’s which require sprinklers in tall office blocks in central London for example. These rules predate current building regulations and reflect an age when buildings over 10 stories where unusual. Experience since the 1930’s proves that this is not an issue, so why should offices in Hackney require sprinklers when those in neighbouring Newham don’t? If it is necessary to sprinkler all offices over 25m then it should be in the main building regulations, not in separate Local Acts. Another area where great strides could be made is the removal of standalone ‘guides’ such as the Code for sustainable homes, and BREEAM, again if these are appropriate they should be within Part L/Part M and not in separate guidance enforced under planning.

‘There’s a great deal that can be done to streamline the current system ,and if you dig beneath the headlines, a lot that architects and building control surveyors would support.’

Paul King, CEO, UK Green Building Council
‘This review has gone from being a sensible look at rationalizing and updating some voluntary standards for house building to a full blown de-regulation frenzy – what the Government itself is calling “rationalizing the entire framework of building regulations and national and local housing standards.”

This new upheaval creates a fog of uncertainty

‘Housebuilders have not been calling for a bonfire of building regulations, what they really need is mortgage finance and institutional investment to get the industry moving and policy clarity to deliver the homes we urgently need. This new upheaval, following hot on the heels of the biggest shake up of the planning system in living memory, instead creates a fog of uncertainty, and is much more likely to act as a brake on housing delivery, than an accelerator.’

Readers' comments (3)

  • It is about time. I have had to provide a steel frame just to support a dormer window on a roof extension because the house was 5 stories high (the rest of the house was existing and allowed to collapse). A couple of months ago the gaps in a ramp handrail were rejected because it was 10mm over the 380 difference allowed, yet I can walk along a cliff top on a public path with a fall of 30m without a fence. The regulations need to be proportionate to the real risk and make sure that building are constructed to the correct standards. There are many small builders working directly for clients who have little idea what is in the current building regulations. We have the building regulations, approved documents in in some cases government guides to the approved documents. I just hope that they do not go the same way as the planning overhaul which resulted in a much more complex system.

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  • It's not the regulations - it's the money. If you reckon that doing away with Planning and Building Regulations are going make a difference to the construction industry then you are in for a big disappointment. Instead of wsting money on quangos the government would be better to kick start the economy with a rolling programme of new social housing.

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  • Hal-Luke Savas

    Regulations are made so to make life 'bearable' before the troubles start. Legal folks are available in case the trouble starts and the search for the 'guilty' begins. But revising the regulations is necessary to avoid all that hassle. Revising regulations means allowing those poorer folks living safely and cheaply in their homes without an army of hangers on benefiting in paper pushing.. SO HOW COME REVISING THE REGULATIONS IS A BAD THING? OR WHAT IS THIS CACOPHONY ABOUT ?... WE DON'T WANT THOSE WISHFUL HANGERS ON GETTING RICH AT THE EXPENSE OF THE POOR FELLOW WHO JUST WANTS A SAFE ROOF OVER HIS HEAD.. I say cut the paperwork, cut the hangers on!
    HAL-LUKE SAVAS MBA FCIM MBIFM ICIOB affCIBSE

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