Two years after it began, Building’s Reform the Regs campaign ends in victory

The process of updating the Building Regulations will be revolutionised if proposals put forward by the communities department are implemented.

The department this week, published a consultation paper suggesting a number of ways to make the rules easier to comply with.

Many of the proposals were predicted in Building two weeks ago, and they answer the main demands of our Reform the Regs campaign. This called for regulations to be more coherent and predictable to enable the industry to organise itself better to meet them.

The key proposals are:

  • Building Regulations to be revised on a fixed dates three years apart. This could start with the revisions to Part L, the section of the regulations dealing with energy efficiency, in 2010.
  • Each set of Regulations would be revised every two cycles, or six years, with the exception of Part L.
  • The department reserves the right to make changes outside of that framework in exceptional circumstances. It also proposes indicating what changes are likely in advance.
  • Abolition of statutory inspection stages.
  • Any suggestion of closing down councils’ building control departments has been dropped.
  • Local authorities to have the power to stop dangerous jobs.

The industry has broadly welcomed the proposals. Peter Caplehorn, the technical director of architect Scott Brownrigg said: “To get a better compliance, regulations need to be predictable. Construction has long gestation periods for projects so to see what is coming up is absolutely essential.”

All regulations would be revised on fixed dates, which would bring greater certainty

The consultation includes measures to help building control departments use their time more effectively by, for example, getting rid of statutory inspection stages and allowing officers to adopt a risk-based approach.

Another proposal is to only allow builders undertaking minor work to file building notices. Currently, clients can notify their building control department 48 hours in advance of work starting without providing any details. This places a greater strain on building control resources as it tends to lead to more inspection.

The document also proposes making small projects, such as domestic extensions, subject to the full application route, in which details about the work must be submitted.

The reaction …

"We are delighted the benefits of long-term planning have been recognised. This will reduce risk and help companies make decisions."
John Tebbit, Construction Products Association

"This will be a benefit to SMEs who will know when changes are coming and give them time to get up to speed."
Brian Berry, Federation of Master Builders

"I am pleased the government is to work with stakeholders to improve the system. There is no threat to building control; there is recognition it needs to focus where risks are greatest."
Paul Everall, LABC