It has been three months since the consultation on the housing standards review closed and still we have heard nothing

Paul Everall

Last year the government launched an important consultation on how housing standards might be rationalised. There was widespread agreement that the system of Building Regulations, Code for Sustainable Homes requirements and other demands made by planning authorities had grown too complicated, and that as a result housing developers were faced with unnecessary burdens which often differed between neighbouring authorities.

So there was a broad welcome for this review – and for the way in which it was carried out utilising working groups looking at particular subject areas and a challenge panel overseeing the whole process.

The consultation closed on 22 October 2013, three months ago. Great play was made at that time that ministers wanted to come to an early decision on such an important issue, and that housebuilders needed to have their burdens reduced. But so far we have heard nothing. How much longer must we wait?

Of course, I would personally prefer a right decision to a speedy but incorrect one. There are probably two over-riding concerns for the construction industry in general, and not just building control bodies.

Of course, I would personally prefer a right decision to a speedy but incorrect one.

First, the need for a significant reduction in the number of different technical requirements being placed on housebuilders. And secondly that all technical standards should be brought together in one place and not imposed through different regulatory regimes.

In their consultation, the government set out three options as to where new housing standards should appear; in Building Regulations; in the planning system; or firstly, as an interim arrangement, in planning and eventually in Building Regulations.

From what I have seen of the responses a large majority preferred the former. The reasons, it has been suggested to me, that the government might prefer the second or third options include the fact that it takes a long time to change Building Regulations; that these regulations are covered by the “one in, two out” rule; and that it is not possible to have different levels of standard imposed through Building Regulations – as is likely to be necessary for, for example, disability provisions.

This latter point is just not true; for example, different radon provisions apply in different parts of the country. The planning system could be used to specify in which parts of a local authority area different provisions would apply, and compliance with these provisions could be checked through Building Regulations. Nor would it take long to change Building Regulations given that consultation on proposed new standards has already taken place. And I have written before on the iniquity of the “one in, two out” rule.

So let us hope for both a speedy and a right outcome.

Paul Everall is chief executive of LABC