Hallelujah. The government is finally taming the Building Regulations.
The process of lobbying that started in October 2005 with Building’s Reform the Regs campaign culminated on Tuesday with a package of proposals, published by the communities department, that should finally provide an infinitely more intelligent and workable system.
Frankly, the regulations had become an absolute nightmare – to take one example, a change to fire door provisions in Part B would contradict disabled access requirements in Part M, and there was no clear guidance on which should take precedence. Now, out go ad-hoc revisions, in comes a six-year cycle of updates – three-yearly for Part L – with all revisions to be implemented at once. With coherent and integrated guidance, manufacturers will be able to plan investment and construction companies will be able to cost the impact of technical changes to their businesses. We rarely experience nirvana in this industry, but this is about as close as it gets.
The second part of the document sets out a shake-up for building control. Here, radical talk at the end of last year of blanket self-certification and mass privatisation has come to nothing. The contents instead lay down a series of small sensible measures. Building control will be able to make its own judgments about what to inspect and when instead of following set notification procedures. Building control officers and planning departments will be forced to speak to each other, too.
These measures may not solve the dire resource issues building control has been facing, nor the sheer complexity of the job, but they will bring much needed clarity to its role. That said, as with all of these things, the devil will be in the detail of the final document – and the last-minute changes to the 2006 revision of Part L have taught us to beware nasty surprises.
Okay, now you can panic
Gloom may have hung over last week’s Mipim, but that was nothing to the mood in the property world since the collapse of Bear Stearns, one of Wall Street’s finest. Contractors and subcontractors may not yet be feeling the effects of the growing crisis in the banking world, but for housebuilders it’s surely time to panic. Privately some have said they could see a chink of light at the end of the Northern Rock disaster – but one more banking collapse would snuff that out for good. The sheer difficulty of getting a mortgage will curtail talk of a spring buying spree, with more office closures and redundancies the inevitable consequence. The only person with much to to be pleased about is Ian Smith, the former Taylor Woodrow chief executive who departed the firm when it merged with Wimpey last year. The £2m he pocketed for seven months’ work should see him through the worst of the downturn …