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New regulations should bring forward much-needed new homes

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Continuing his look at changes to the Building Regs this October, Geoff Wilkinson sets out the key changes to access to dwellings

This month (and next) I am looking at the changes to Part M - Access to and Use of Buildings. As previously explained, the government has created a new approach for the setting of technical standards for new housing. This rationalises the many differing existing standards into a simpler, streamlined system, and is intended to reduce burdens and help bring forward much-needed new homes.

As a result of the changes the Lifetime Homes code of practice standard and various other local requirements for accessible housing have been withdrawn from use by local planning authorities. Instead if planning authorities want the option of setting additional technical requirements that exceed the minimum standards required by Building Regulations in respect of access to new dwellings then it must be by reference to enhanced Building Regulations in national guidance.

They will have the option to set the requirements at one of three levels: the base default level requirement M4(1) visitable dwellings – which is the current Part M standard; a new increased standard M4(2) for accessible and adaptable dwellings; or a higher standard still, M4(3) wheelchair user dwellings.

Architects will ideally appoint building control to advise on the potential impacts prior to making a planning application. At the very least they will need to include details of any planning conditions as part of the Building Regs application process.

Before looking at these technical standards in detail, I should first explain the process involved in selecting the standards. Planning authorities must now base their requirements on the housing needs assessment and other available datasets. There is a wide range of these datasets including:

• the likely future need for housing for older and disabled people (including wheelchair user dwellings);

• size, location, type and quality of dwellings needed to meet specifically evidenced needs (for example retirement homes, sheltered homes or care homes);

• the accessibility and adaptability of existing housing stock;

• how needs vary across different housing tenures; and

• the overall impact on viability.

Having established a need, the planning authority can adopt a policy to provide enhanced accessibility or adaptability but only by reference to Requirement M4(2) and / or M4(3) of the optional requirements in the Building Regulations. They should clearly state in their local plan what proportion of new dwellings should comply with the requirements, and then apply these by condition with the planning consent. But it will be building control rather than planning that will be required to sign off on compliance on these conditions. This means that forms such as application forms, initial notices and final certificates will all need to be amended to reflect these changes.

As a result of these changes Part M is now broken down into two new approved documents: Approved Document M (access to and use of buildings) Volume 1 – Dwellings; and Volume 2 – Buildings Other Than Dwellings

Requirement M4 sanitary conveniences for dwellings is gone; divided into the three new requirements as described above. Architects dealing with M4(1) dwellings and buildings other than dwellings will find that the technical standards in the approved documents are unchanged from the current Part M. However those dealing with M4(2) and (3) dwellings will need to become familiar with a whole new set of technical standards.

Next month I will be looking at M4(2) and the technical requirements for accessible and adaptable dwellings in detail, and the month after M4(3) covering wheelchair user dwellings. But if you can’t wait, we are offering CPD training sessions at architects’ offices for a nominal charge.

Geoff Wilkinson is managing director of approved inspectors Wilkinson Construction Consultants.

Enquiries to book CPD instruction can be made via office@thebuildinginspector.org

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Readers' comments (2)

  • Interesting attempt to cut red tape and streamline codes, but…... the draft SPG for London asks for 90% M4(2) and 10% M4(3) i.e. no standard base level visitable units M4(1) in London at all! This will mean all flats above ground floor have to be lift access. Are the the Mayors office going to have to demonstrate the need for this?
    David Mikhail
    Mikhail Riches

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  • There is more debate about some of the issues surrounding the draft SPG for London [and Part M4] here:
    https://www.architectsjournal.co.uk/news/experts-concerned-over-disastrous-london-housing-guidance/8690105.article

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