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Research Commissioned by the Previous Administration

Volume 550: debated on Tuesday 18 September 2012

Today my Department is publishing the 13th group of reports presenting the findings from research projects commissioned by the previous Administration.

This Administration inherited a significant backlog of unpublished reports that were commissioned by the previous Government which we have been publishing in groups themed on a particular topic.

The reports and findings are of general policy interest, but do not relate to forthcoming policy announcements. We are publishing these documents in the interests of transparency and as part of our freedom of information commitment to publish the results of all commissioned research.

The 16 reports published today represent the findings from 15th research projects at a total cost of £1,453,505. These findings cover the topics of building, planning and the environment.

Planning reports

(i) Evaluation of minerals policy statements (two volumes)—This report by the British Geological Survey considered the implementation of a number of the minerals policy statements and minerals policy guidance notes, and evaluated the impacts of the policy’s implementation. This report was commissioned in January 2010 at a cost of £60,000.

(ii) Investigating the influence of settlement pattern and morphology on the sterilisation of shallow coal resourcesThis report by the British Geological Survey assessed the impact on shallow coal resources of using separation zones around urban areas. This report was commissioned in January 2010 at a cost of £9,000.

(iii) Research to understand the rural impacts of regional spatial strategies—This report by land use consultants noted that the regional strategies were not rural proofed and, had an urban-centred approach and that planned housing provision in rural areas was on a declining trend. This report was commissioned in 2009 at a cost of £21,542.

(iv) A quality local development management service—The last Government’s Killian Pretty report recommended that Government should review the then existing national planning indicator (National Indicator 157) on timeliness for progressing planning applications and proposed a new satisfaction with the planning application service indicator. There was concern from applicants, local planning authorities and others that the performance regime focused on the eight and 13-week time-scale targets had unintended effects on behaviours and outcomes. In response the Department commissioned research into alternatives. The research report by Addison and Associates with Arup recommended monitoring 37 different indicators. This report was commissioned in November 2009 at a cost of £72,816.

(v) A tool to assess the impact of EU directives on UK sub-national planning policies (two reports)—This research by Ove Arup aimed to develop a tool to assess the impact of future EU directives on national planning policies. Directives used in developing this tool included the marine strategy directive, the water framework directive and the habitats directive. It noted that EU directives create significant tensions with the need for development to meet demand. The marine strategy directive would cost key business sectors between £439 million to £1.2 billion in additional costs. The research was commissioned in 2009 at a cost of £81,025.

Building and the environment reports

(vi) Mapping the standard of existing stock and its turnover—This report by Building Research Establishment considered the work to develop a model of the existing housing stock in England and Wales, which could be used in assessing the impact of current and future policy in relation to energy use, carbon emissions and water consumption. This report was commissioned in 2008 at a cost of £56,305.

(vii) Case studies of change of use of dwellings—This report by Faber Maunsell looked at achieving satisfactory acoustic performance for buildings to be converted from industry or commercial use to residential use. Although sound insulation was the main concern of this project, all other relevant requirements of the building regulations were to be considered and methods of compliance outlined. This report was commissioned in 2003 at a cost of £115,860.

(viii) Lessons from Stamford Brook—Understanding the gap between designed and real performance. This report by Leeds Metropolitan University conveyed the results of a research designed to evaluate the extent to which low-carbon housing standards could be achieved in a large commercial housing development and incorporated into future building regulations. The report was commissioned in 2002 and the Department’s contribution was £215,000.

(ix) The safety of stairs investigated over a range of rise and goings—This report by Building Research Establishment considered people’s use of stairs. It conducted analysis of subjective opinions, objective behaviour on stairs and foot placement data to establish the effect of guidance within part K (Protection from falling, collision and impact) on the design of public, private and institutional stairs and the risk of falling. The report was commissioned in 2003 at a cost of £219,682.

(x) Investigation of real fires—This report by the Building Research Establishment provided feedback on the performance of real buildings in real fires. The findings noted the overall effectiveness of the building regulations in providing for the safety of life in the event of fire and most of the significant issues that have been identified during this study fell outside the scope of these regulations. The report was commissioned in 2007 at a cost of £241,067.

(xi) Modelling the current and potential accessibility of the housing stock—This report by Building Research Establishment considered the accessibility of the existing housing stock in England with particular reference to its utility for older and disabled people. The report uses data from the English Housing Condition Survey to identify the frequency and suitability of a range of built features within homes to arrive at an overall assessment of their accessibility and future adaptability. The report was commissioned in 2006 at a cost of £56,305.

(xii) Future administration of the energy performance buildings directive quality assurance regime—The objective of the work was to set the long-term standards and quality assurance arrangements for the energy performance of buildings directive (regime and infrastructure, including accreditation schemes and energy assessors), to ensure that robust, repeatable and accurate energy performance certificates, display energy certificates and air conditioning reports were produced in a consistent manner. It was commissioned in June 2009 at a cost of £75,280.

(xiii) Review of the impact of the draft European basic safety standard directive on building regulations—This report by the Building Research Establishment examines the implications of the proposed European ionising radiation basic safety standard directive for building regulations. This research was commissioned in February 2010 at a cost of £24,829.

(xiv) Glazing under abnormal loads—This report by Buro Happold and the Building Research Establishment addressed the issue of abnormal loads on glazing and the response of glazing systems. The research was commissioned in particular to examine the role of building regulations in mitigating the risks involved from abnormal loads on glazing. It reviewed structural assessment methods currently used to design buildings with glazed systems and assess their adequacy in the area of abnormal loadings. This work was commissioned in October 2003 at a cost of £157,052.

(xv) Safety of masonry parapets—The overall aim of this project was to determine and analyse the most common structural problems associated with masonry parapets and the potential hazards and dangers that may arise. Having identified the problems, conclusions and recommendations need to be made regarding measures that ought to be taken in the specification, design, construction and maintenance of masonry parapets to ensure that they remained safe and structurally sound over the service life of the building. This work was commissioned in October 2003 and cost £61,212.

(xvi) Radon: Current and future performance of radon protective measures—This report by the Building Research Establishment (BRE) reviews the performance of radon protective measures in new buildings. The research notes that radon protection measures installed 20 years continue to provide a high degree of radon protection, and were not adversely affected by improvements such as extensions, conservatories, double glazing or insulation. This work was commissioned in February 2010 at a cost of £53,505.

These reports and findings are of general policy interest, but do not relate to forthcoming policy announcements and are not necessarily a reflection of the current Government’s policies and priorities.

Copies of these reports are available on the Department for Communities and Local Government website. Copies have been placed in the Libraries of the Houses.