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Proposal for optional building regulations

New housing standards will include ‘optional’ building regulations that will only be applied in certain areas, the government has announced.


In a response to its Housing Standards Review, which is intended to cut unnecessary standards that could slow down development, communities minister Stephen Williams said councils would be able to decide whether or not to apply certain building regulations.

“The current system of housing standards is complicated and confusing and is ripe for reform.

“That’s why we’re planning to make the whole system easier to understand and follow, consolidating housing standards so that all the requirements are in one place.”

The new system will include optional building regulations that will only apply when needed, the minister said.

This will mean councils will decide whether or not to apply certain building regulations to developments being built in their areas.

These could include water efficiency, where different standards could apply for areas facing water shortages and accessibility, where standards could differ for homes for the elderly and disabled.

The government will also develop a national housing space standard, made available to councils where it is needed and where it would not hinder development. This will replace the range of space standards currently demanded by councils.

Housebuilders will no longer be required to get homes checked by several different organisations, Mr Williams said.

These include the planning authority, a Code for Sustainable Homes assessor, a building control organisation, the Homes and Communities Agency and independent standard assessors.

The Code for Sustainable Homes, which is the national standard for the sustainable design and construction of new homes, will be consolidated into the government’s building regulations.

Mr Williams pledged to deliver the new standards by the end of this parliament in May 2015.

UK Green Building Council chief executive Paul King said the changes “highlighted the importance of sticking to the 2016 zero carbon goal for all new homes, with no further weakening of standards or any delays”.

He added: “Of course over time it will be necessary to bring a wider range of issues into building regulations, such as embodied carbon, and the use of sustainable materials, which has been progressed under the Code for Sustainable Homes.”

EC Harris head of residential Mark Farmer said: “The industry will benefit from this new level of national consistency which should also ensure that standards are well drafted and achieve the quality outcomes for which they were intended.

“Whilst the indication that Code for Sustainable Homes will be wound down may be controversial, it is clear that the building regulations and other protections are intended to maintain carbon reduction and environmental targets.”

In total the measures will reduce 100 standards to fewer than 10, as announced by David Cameron in January and bring down the number of remaining pages of guidance from 1,000 to fewer than 100, which it said would save developers and councils both time and money.