Changes to the Building Regulations

Communities and Local Government written statement – made on 31st January 2012.

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Photo of Andrew Stunell Andrew Stunell The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Communities and Local Government

I am today announcing a consultation on changes to the building regulations regime in England. I believe the proposals, by seizing the opportunity to deregulate where possible while delivering even better levels of compliance and energy efficiency in buildings, will support our commitment ensuring that our buildings are safe and sustainable whilst helping to secure future growth and employment by means of a robust and effective bedrock of regulation.

Our proposals build on ideas and suggestions provided by our external partners. We will continue to engage with partners and will also take into account the contributions to the current red tape challenge exercise as we finalise these proposals.

The Government are committed to reducing the burden that falls on business as a result of regulation. The consultation we are publishing today includes proposals which provide annual net savings to business of £63.1 million:

Proposals which respond to concerns about the burdens associated with part P (electrical safety—dwellings) and the costs which fall on electricians, local authorities and ultimately the consumer. We are consulting on two changes to reduce these costs while not undermining safety. First, we propose to extend the range of simple jobs that can be carried out without notifying building control. Secondly, we propose to allow DIY-ers and other unregistered installers to use a competent electrician rather than a building inspector to certify work.

Clarifying the guidance on access statements in Approved Document M (access to and use of buildings) so as to promote a proportionate, risk-based approach to communicating compliance and avoid production of statements unnecessarily.

Rationalising the guidance supporting parts M, K and N (access, protection from falling, collision and impact and glazing respectively) to address areas of conflict and overlap and which impose unnecessary costs on business.

Making minor changes to the technical guidance in the Approved Document B (Fire safety) which seeks to restrict the spread of flame and heat release rate of the products used in lining ceilings, walls and other internal structures.

In addition, given the consultation relates to the regulation of buildings, I am also using this opportunity to announce our intention to take forward the repeal of the fire protection provisions in the Local Acts. This will free-up businesses from the costs of fire protection requirements contained in some Local Acts which apply inconsistently across the country. The decision has been taken in the light of previous consultation which found no evidence to justify maintaining requirements which go beyond the necessary protection already afforded nationally through the building regulations.

The consultation includes proposals which deliver on our commitment to increase energy efficiency standards through part L (conservation of fuel and power) of the building regulations. For new buildings, the changes represent the next step towards zero carbon by tightening carbon dioxide compliance targets and for new homes they also introduce a new mandatory target for fabric energy efficiency and proposals to further improve compliance and as built performance. They also contain proposals to strengthen energy efficiency standards for existing properties and introduce requirements for additional—consequential—energy efficiency improvements where work is already planned, and the Green Deal is available to meet up-front costs. Given the current economic conditions, I have considered carefully the timing and ambition of these proposals and sought to tailor the proposals accordingly, for example, through the phased introduction of the part L provisions.

The Government also have a separate commitment to reduce the total regulatory burden on the house building industry during this spending review period. The energy efficiency improvements for new homes proposed therefore will need to be compensated by extra deregulatory proposals. Work is currently in hand to identify compensating regulatory “outs” and Government will set out where these will be found when they bring forward their response to this consultation. If sufficient “outs” cannot be found, the Government will adjust its final package accordingly.

We are consulting on two further changes. First, to align the existing guidance in Approved Document C (site preparation and resistance to contaminants and moisture) on radon safety with the most up-to-date radon maps thus ensuring that these safety provisions are targeted at the appropriate parts of the country. Secondly, to replace the currently-referenced structural standards in Approved Document A (Structure) with the updated British standards that are based on eurocodes.

Although the majority of the proposals relate to the technical building standards, I also propose a number of changes to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the building control system. The proposals will reduce costs and burdens by simplifying or improving processes for both local authorities and approved inspectors. We are helping building control to focus resources where they have the most impact by removing a number of statutory notification stages and introducing a service plan approach based on risk assessment and helping improve competition between building control bodies by removing the warranty link rule. We are also helping incentivise businesses to improve compliance by introducing additional voluntary mechanisms, such as extending the competent person self-certification schemes framework and introducing specialist third-party certification schemes; and introducing “Appointed Persons” to act as compliance co-ordinators on construction sites, as well as strengthening existing enforcement mechanisms.

The Government have also been considering whether there is a role for regulation to ensure suitable toilet and changing provisions for people with multiple and profound disabilities—often referred to as “Changing Places” toilets. Work undertaken so far suggests that a collaborative approach between external partners has the potential to deliver a better alternative to regulation. I have asked my officials to help facilitate this. However, I hold open the possibility of returning to the issue of regulation in the future should this not prove successful.

Secondly, I also wanted to explore further the case for regulation in relation to minimum standards for security in homes. Our initial analysis suggests that current industry practice provide a reasonable balance between the costs of security measures and the protection they provide. However, we will continue work to understand how applying higher standards locally without the need to regulate might work. We also intend to work with the Home Office and industry to develop a consumer-friendly, industry led rating system for security products.

Alongside the consultation proposals the Department for Communities and Local Government is also today publishing on its website nine impact assessments which provide information on the costs and benefits associated with the consultation proposals and the repeal of the Local Acts and seven research reports which have informed the proposals and impact assessments. I am placing copies of these documents, as well as the consultation documents, in the Library of the House.

Taken together, I believe the proposals being published today demonstrate our continuing commitment to be the greenest Government ever, helping business and consumers by reducing fuel bills and so helping reduce fuel poverty, whilst regulating proportionately to avoid imposing unnecessary costs and supporting growth and employment.