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Building Regulations

Volume 577: debated on Thursday 13 March 2014

New homes need to be high quality, accessible and sustainable. To achieve this, the Government are today setting out a road map delivering a radically simplified system for setting standards in the design and construction of new homes by the end of this Parliament. This represents the outcome of a significant and ambitious drive to reduce the regulatory burden on the housing industry, and will save money and time for industry and authorities. The road map will involve consolidating essential requirements in to a national framework centred on the building regulations, reducing substantially the number of technical standards applying to the construction of new homes.

These changes will hugely improve the situation for all involved in this sector, by rationalising and simplifying the many overlapping and confusing standards currently in operation. We are also able to do this while improving quality, safeguarding environmental protections, and protections for disabled people. We consulted on the housing standards review proposals in the second half of last year, which set out proposals to rationalise the proliferation of housing related standards, guidance and codes above those required by building regulations. The Government are today also publishing the summary analysis of the responses to the 2013 housing standards review consultation.

Taking account of the responses to the consultation, an outcome of the housing and construction red tape challenge, the Government have decided that the most sensible way forward is for any necessary technical standards as far as possible to be consolidated into the building regulations and the accompanying approved documents, and to make significant progress on this over the rest of this Parliament. A note is being placed in the Library of the House, setting out how the Government intend to proceed with each of the standards examined in the consultation

The Government recognise that it is not always possible or desirable to require a single national standard for all new development, and that local discretion is in some circumstances sensible. To facilitate this, the consultation proposed the introduction of new powers in the Building Act which would enable different levels of performance where these were necessary to meet certain local circumstances. These requirements would be triggered by conditions set in a local plan, subject to the normal plan-making process of evidencing need and testing viability. So today I can announce we are introducing measures to ensure that the system includes new flexibility to respond to local circumstances where needed.

There are significant benefits to this arrangement. Building regulations apply nationally across England and provide a clear and consistent set of requirements for home builders to meet, and for building control bodies to apply. Checking compliance will in the future be undertaken through building control, removing the current maze of compliance regimes and systems and reducing costs not only to developers but to local authorities. The Government will work with local authority building control bodies and approved inspectors on putting this approach into practice.

Setting requirements solely in building regulations will help to provide the certainty needed to ensure that home builders know what they need to do, and can deliver high quality new homes which meet local community’s needs. Implementing this approach will reduce over 100 standards to fewer than 10, and will provide significant cost savings for industry.

The Government will press ahead with the work to consolidate necessary standards into the regulations during this Parliament. Draft regulations and technical standards will be published in the summer, with necessary statutory regulations and supporting approved documents coming into force at the turn of the year. The Government have also today tabled amendments to the Deregulation Bill currently before the House, to make necessary changes to existing legislation to enable this approach.

The consultation made clear the Government’s intention that planning authorities should only use the standards emerging from the review process. The Government will issue a statement later this year when the new standards are published, which will explain how this policy will be implemented.

This means that many of the requirements of the code for sustainable homes will be consolidated into building regulations, which would require substantial changes to the content of the current code, as well as a reconsideration of its role. In the light of this, the Government think that the current code will need to be wound down to coincide with the changes incorporating the new standards coming into force. The Government will make further announcements on the transitional arrangements, and the handling of legacy developments being built out to current code requirements. The Government are also interested in hearing from industry as to the value of elements of the code being taken forward on a voluntary basis.