News

DCLG panel to investigate house building regulation

1 November 2012

A new four strong “challenge panel” has been tasked with coming up with a new approach to regulating house building as part of a major government rationalisation of regulations and standards in the residential sector. 

The group, appointed by the Department for Communities and Local Government, consists of: Andy von Bradsky, chairman of PRP Architects; Building Control expert David Clements, London chair of LABC and the district surveyor of the City of London; planning specialist Paul Watson; and ex-Fairview Homes head of sustainability Kirk Archibald. Its remit is to report back to government with innovative ideas on alternative approaches by April 2013. 

Andy von Bradsky was co-author of a Housing Forum report published in April, Rationalising regulation for growth and innovation, which detailed how more than 200 regulations, codes and standards – often mutually conflicting – were frustrating housebuilders, developers and housing associations. For more information, visit http://construction-manager.co.uk/news/shelagh-grant-we-need-cull-regs-holding-back-house/

The challenge panel will work alongside a larger housing standards review group, led by DCLG and including various representative bodies, including the Building Regulations Advisory Council, the Homes and Communities Agency, the RIBA and the UK Green Building Council. Its role will be to advise DCLG ministers on rationalising and simplifying the current regulations. 

The brief given to the challenge panel and review group is to examine all standards that can be applied in local planning policies, such as the Code for Sustainable Homes and Secured by Design; the Building Regulations and Approved Documents; and “other regimes that may place burdens on business... eg sustainable drainage and Energy Performance Certificate requirements.”

Common package

The move has been welcomed by Geoff Wilkinson MCIOB, an approved Building Regulations inspector. “It makes a huge amount of sense to undertake the review, and to co-ordinate all the regulations that have spiralled off and perhaps bring them back into a common package. I’m particularly keen they look at some of the local acts, such as Section 20 in London that says all buildings over 25 metres high require sprinklers. The industry needs a single set of rules with a common set of interpretations.” 

Wilkinson cited the recent example of a small developer that had to wait two weeks for a predicted water usage calculation required under the Code for Sustainable Homes, a voluntary standard, before its scheme could receive a local authority completion certificate that would allow it to be sold. 

“For many small builders, delays in money going into your account can mean the difference between surviving and not surviving,” he said.

He also questioned the Warranty Link Rule, which requires developers of all new dwellings to purchase a warranty, and the problem of conflicting design standards around security. 

“There are differences between Secured by Design, Part M (on accessibility) and Lifetime Homes. So when you add all three together, something as simple as designing the lighting, thresholds and locks for front entrances becomes very complicated.”

 

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