Following a three-month consultation, big changes could be made to Builidng Control
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It is important to remember that the Building Regulations system is not broken,’ says Paul Everal, chief executive of Local Authority Building Control (LABC). ‘Building Control has never been more important politically. The government has its climate change agenda to deliver, alongside enforcing health and safety. The system’s fitness for purpose must be improved and brought up to date.’
Last year the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) began a three-month consultation on the future of Building Control. It sought to ‘improve compliance with the Building Regulations and further reduce the burdens associated with the system.’
Its proposals - 28 in all - investigated the structure, format, compliance and enforcement of the Building Regulations. Yet it also made clear that there was little money to fund changes and that an increase in administrative burden would be untenable. A summary of 396 responses was published last October.
DCLG intends to publish its implementation plan at the end of this month. The majority of proposals in the consultation document were supported by the respondents, but Geoff Wilkinson, incoming chairman of the Association of Consultant Approved Inspectors (ACAI) describes the changes as ‘evolution rather than revolution’. He said: ‘The document itself is a missed opportunity as there was scope for a more fundamental review. Although the system is not failing, a lot more could have been done.’
Andy Jobling, technical manager at architectural practice Levitt Bernstein, highlighted the issue of regional variations: ‘We have a different set of regulations for Scotland, Northern Ireland and soon Wales. Is it reasonable that UK architects have to be familiar with four similar but different sets of regulations?’
The responses to the consultation also highlighted a conflict of opinion between private approved inspectors (represented by ACAI) and public local-authority inspectors (represented by LABC), with both demanding a level playing field to eliminate anomalies in regulation that favour the other side. Architects can choose which type of Building Control professional they employ and fees are kept similar due to market forces. The service provided can differ between the competing sectors and indeed between local authorities but in general, approved inspectors play a more consultative role while local authorities focus on straightforward compliance.
Bad memories of Part L’s introduction in 2006 featured heavily in respondents’ comments and DCLG quoted one as calling the situation a ‘debacle’. Many of the proposals are particularly relevant to the experiences of Part L but equally, the complexity of the regulation made it a special caveat among respondents who otherwise supported some of the other moves.
Architects and other construction industry professionals made up 20 per cent of the respondent group (the second largest group after local authority workers). The Building Control Alliance - formed in 2007 by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), the Association of Building Engineers (ABE), the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB), the Association of Consultant Approved Inspectors and the Local Authority Building Control - also responded to the consultation.