Shapps scraps proposed housebuilding regs

26 November 2010

Housing minister Grant Shapps has dropped plans to introduce new basic design and sustainability standards for publicly-funded housing that could have added £8,000 to the cost of building homes.

Shapps said the proposed Core Housing Standards, drawn up by the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) to improve the quality and basic living standards of every home that receives government funding or is built on public land, were an ‘unnecessary expense’ at a time when the country desperately needed more homes.

The core standards were under consultation and would have introduced additional performance benchmarks for new homes, and could have been implemented from April 2011.

The standards were due to include: minimum dwelling space and benchmark room sizes; reaching a minimum of  Code for Sustainable Homes Level 4; a minimum of 14 of the 20 points under the HCA's Building for Life criteria, plus adequate provision of external private open space. 

Making the announcement this week at the annual lunch of the National House Building Council, Shapps said: ‘Today is the first step of many towards reducing the unnecessary cost and hassle that the people who build our homes are forced to endure.  There’s no good reason why homes built on public land should be built any differently to those of high quality on private land. So I’m getting rid of this unnecessary requirement, and I’ll be working hard to make sure that, in the long run, the standards that apply to private and public housing are exactly the same.”

Shapps also promised to sweep away the ‘alphabet soup’ of local building standards for individual boroughs, and asked developers to offer suggestions for a new system of local development standards.

The news was greeted with a strong negative reaction by RIBA president Ruth Reed, who told Building Design magazine: ‘This is a deeply troubling decision that will have profound implications for communities across the country. The proposed HCA standards were designed to raise the overall quality of publicly-funded housing and ensure that new homes meet the most basic of lifestyle needs – reform was desperately needed.’

She added: ‘We agree that there is too much regulation in the housing sector, but the HCA standards were designed to harmonise regulation and provide clarity for industry. The government needs to ensure that it provides strong, clear guidance, which underlines the importance of design quality, and we are concerned that the proposed menu of options for local authorities may lead to further confusion and lower standards.

She continued: “UK housebuilders have delivered the smallest homes in Europe, and have built homes which have been consistently judged to be of a poor quality by the government’s own design watchdog.’

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