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LABC demands more power

Local Authority Building Control (LABC) is seeking greater powers in an attempt to force widespread compliance with the Building Regulations.


The national organisation which represents LABC departments in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is proposing to be allowed to issue stop and fixed penalty notices to those found in breach of the regulations. It is also seeking the power to impose stiffer fines and publicise the details of those deemed to be non-compliant.


In a tacit admission that it is insufficiently equipped to deal with breaches of the regulations, Paul Everall, LABC chief executive, wrote in the in-house journal: “Building control surveyors need improved powers to require compliance with the Regulations.


“Good architects and builders have nothing to fear from this. Indeed, they should welcome it because it will help squeeze out of the industry those involved in bad building. Stop and fixed penalty notices would be valuable additions to our existing powers, as would greater fines and more publicity for non-compliance.”


Philip Hammond, LABC national director of business development, explained: “At the moment we persuade people [to comply with the regulations] or end up in a very expensive court case that costs the tax payer far more than the fines imposed.


“Enforcement is often interpreted as people being taken to court but initiating legal action is a last resort for us. A view has been taken that the action and the punishment [meted out] does not make good business sense or provide a decent rate of return taxpayers’ money.


“Where we suggest changes in cases of non-compliance our officers will continue to work on site with the builders, contractors and architects to assist in getting these issues resolved.”


The HVCA has publicly accused LABC officers of turning a blind eye to violations of Part L of the Building Regulations, and of having little knowledge of the energy efficiency legislation. It has also criticised the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) for not doing enough to enforce compliance.


However, Mr Hammond dismissed the criticisms, saying the former was a retrospective view, based on the way Part L was introduced; while the latter was based on a misunderstanding of how enforcement is carried out.


Responding to the call for greater power, Bill Belshaw, Building Engineering Services Competence Accreditation chairman, said: “I would strongly agree that the LABC should have stronger powers. But they don’t do enough with the power they already have. There’s plenty of work that’s being carried out by people who are not qualified to do it.”


“There are also discrepancies within the regulations which need to be rectified. Not enough is being done to address these. There is only one person who can sort this out but [that person] is busy, with a very demanding schedule.”


The DCLG said it was in favour of LABC’s proposals. “Increasing LABC powers would require legislation, but it would also require support from us first. The DCLG is launching a consultation on the building regulations and building control in the next few weeks.

'No date has been set yet, but we intend to consult with stakeholders to consider ways in which we can strengthen the LABC’s existing powers,” a spokesperson said.

Local Authority Building Control
Department of Local Government and Communities
Heating and Ventilating Contractors' Association