Grant Shapps proposes menu of approved options for councils to choose from

The government is proposing a new body to look after a raft of local construction standards that housebuilders will have to meet.

In a move which has surprised the sector, housing minister Grant Shapps and communities department officials have circulated draft proposals for a new system of local regulation of housebuilding.

Building understands that this includes getting up an “independent body” to develop, own and maintain an approved menu of local standards.

This is despite the coalition government’s policy of culling as many quangos as possible and its stated aim of vastly reducing red tape for housebuilders. A government spokeswoman refused to comment in detail but denied it is considering setting up a quango.

In November, Shapps said he would drop Homes and Communities Agency proposals for unified standards for publicly funded homes in favour of a menu of options.

Local councils will be able to choose which options to enforce.

However, Shapps has said he wants the industry to help inform how the new system will work.

This is a key issue for housebuilders, who claim the additional imposition of local regulations, such as councils requiring houses to meet the Lifetime Homes standard or include on-site renewable energy, is making many housing sites economically unviable.

The government is seeking industry opinion on how an overseeing body might be funded, as well as whether the “menu” concept would work.

Some housebuilders are thought to fear the idea could add to the burden of regulation.John Slaughter, policy director at the Home Builders Federation, said: “We’re willing to look further into a menu approach, but we don’t believe this is the only way to take this issue forward.”

Housebuilders want the government to force councils to examine the impact of every regulation they introduce upon the viability of housing development.