The government’s blunt effort to reduce the burden of regulation on our industry seems to be having perverse consequences

Paul Everall

“One in, two out” that’s the government’s rule for new policy and regulations – doesn’t it sound delightful? You put one pound in, and you get two back. What could be better than that?

But how different things are in the world of building regulations for those of us striving to improve the quality of the building stock.

We find that even where a large majority of people believe it would be sensible to strengthen these regulations in some way, for example increasing the energy efficiency requirements in Part L en route to near zero carbon homes in 2016, the government department responsible for these regulations is not allowed to make this change without removing from them existing provisions to at least double the cost of the proposed change.

I have been involved with the building regulations now for more than 20 years, first in advising ministers on what changes should be made to them, and then more recently in working with local authorities on ensuring compliance.

I whole-heartedly agree that we should remove any regulation that is no longer necessary or is overly burdensome

During that time I have seen, and been involved in, numerous attempts to cut back the burden of regulation. I have no problem with that at all – I whole-heartedly agree that we should remove any regulation that is no longer necessary or is overly burdensome. And indeed I was arguing that point at a European Commission strategy meeting in Brussels only last week. But I do object to the irrational and arbitrary nature of this rule.

I have recently learnt of what may be an even stranger interpretation of this principle. The consultation on the Housing Standards Review gave three options as to how the conclusions might be implemented – through planning, through building regulations, or through the first of these as an interim step towards the second.

As far as I am aware, a large majority of respondents wanted to see all technical standards in the building regulations, and certainly that is the view of LABC. But it is now rumoured that the Department for Communities and Local Government favours using planning rather than building regulations because “one in, two out” does not apply to planning but does to building regulations – even for exactly the same measures. If this is true, how nonsensical is that?

Paul Everall is chief executive of LABC