This clause replaces section 32 of the Building Act 1984, that bell-bottom flare and platform-shoe Act that we need to reform in order to make it more competent. I do not mean to be flippant, but we need to make it more appropriate to the modern day. This clause also amends section 52 and schedule 4 of the Act, to simplify the process under which a building control approval given by a building control authority, or an initial notice issued by a registered building control approver, or a public body’s notice, lapses if work has not started after three years.
The changes will bring the Building Act in line with how unused planning permissions lapse automatically after three years if work has not started. Currently, if work has not started after three years, a local authority can issue a notice that any plans approval issued for that work has no effect, or to cancel any initial notice that has been issued for that work.
Rather than placing the onus on the local authority to identify and take proactive action to issue a notice that the building control approval has no effect, or to cancel the notice, the new section 32, and amended sections 52 and schedule 4, allow for the approval or notices to lapse automatically. This simplifies the system and saves the local authority the administration of having to issue the notice of cancellation.
It looks as if my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich West is about to intervene, so I will pre-empt him by giving way.
My right hon. Friend Minister might intend to touch on this—if so, I apologise for pre-empting him—but in the scenario of a multi-purpose development, could he clarify what would happen if a developer of builder had started work on one building in a multi-building development? Would that still lapse? I am conscious that that is a way in which the system might be gamed.
If the buildings are connected, so to speak, they will be treated as one. The new provision also rules out any possibility of a developer seeking to game the situation by starting work on one building on a multi-building site and using that to allow the approved building control application, or its initial notice, to continue to have effect for the whole site, even if the site is not built out for many years. It is only for those individual buildings on which work has started that the approval or notice will not lapse; if work has not started, the approval or notice will lapse. This should have the benefit of encouraging sites to be built out more quickly as developers will want to avoid having to resubmit applications. The issue of build-out is raised by colleagues across the House in a wider context, and we may address it in that wider context in another place at another time. Under powers in the clause, we will define in building regulations when work can be considered to start. These amendments will apply in both England and Wales. They are important and sensible changes to simplify how the Act operates.
This is a small but important change, and I commend clause 35 to the Committee.
As stated, it is about time that the scenario is brought up to date with the current planning regime. I would be interested in the Minister’s thoughts—this touches on the future conversations that we will undoubtedly have in this place—on whether, if the build-out has not occurred within three years, the response should be to say, “Use it or lose it”.
Our approach—the House’s approach—should always be to make good and effective law. We are all concerned when permissions are granted, be they for tall buildings or smaller buildings, but build-out does not take place. There can be perfectly good and legitimate reasons for that, but there can be less good and less legitimate reasons. The challenge that we have in this Committee and in a broader context with respect to wider planning reform is to ensure that in encouraging build-out, we do not unintentionally create new ways in which those who wish to do so can game the system. Neither do we want unfairly to disadvantage small and medium-sized builders, and we certainly do not want to disadvantage self and custom-build contractors, or people adding an extension to their home.
We have to make sure that we get the regulations right. I think we have attempted to do that through the small change made in clause 35. I am very happy to work across the Floor more broadly, but hon. Members can be assured that we will attempt to do similarly when we bring forward our more substantive changes to planning reform in the future.