The minister in charge of Building Regulations, Don Foster, unveiled a raft of amendments to the regulations this week claiming they would cut red tape for businesses and save £50m.
Key measures included scrapping local acts to do with fire safety and relaxing some of the stringent requirements to do with domestic electrical installations, covered by Part P.
However, local authority Building Control officers and house builders were sceptical whether what are being seen as relatively minor changes would have the necessary deregulatory impact.
The changes have been made following a consultation issued in January. However, changes to Part L, which covers energy efficiency, won’t be announced until sometime in the new year. It is understood this is being delayed to dovetail with the new review of regulations and standards covering house building, due next year.
Key changes include:
- The scrapping of the Warranty Link Rule – the requirement that house builders buy a 10-year warranty if they used Approved Inspectors for compliance rather than local authority Building Control. However, in practice this is expected to have little impact on the mainstream house builders where homes are often ineligible for mortgages without such a warranty.
- Homogenising fire safety requirements across the country by scrapping of the fire safety aspects of local acts – which often demand specific, but differing, measures on top of the Building Regulations. There are 23 of these acts.
- Relaxing some of the more stringent requirements relating to Part P – which covers electrical work in the home to allow smaller-scale electrical work to be undertaken by non-compliant electricians without it having to be checked by a Building Control body. Currently homeowners can face Building Control fees upwards of £240 to have simple electrical work, such as an additional plug socket in a kitchen, approved by a local authority. Regulations to allow third party certification of electrical work will not be introduced until later next year.
Foster said that the changes would “safeguard standards whilst providing a far cheaper way of verifying work is adequate – particularly for those carrying out DIY work. These changes will be accompanied by simpler, clearer and shorter guidance in a new Approved Document P that we will be publishing shortly.”
David Darlington, head of Local Authority Building Control at North West Leicestershire district council, described the changes as “tweaking around the edges” and wondered if they would lead to the savings being claimed by the minister. He said the scrapping of the fire safety requirements of the local acts was, however, significant and could potentially have a major impact for developers. “We were involved with one warehouse scheme of 7,000m3 where the occupier needed to spend between £250,000 and £500,000 on extra measures like sprinklers and smoke ventilation, in the end they went down the road to another county where no such demands existed.”
A spokesman for the Home Builders Federation said: “The abolition of the warranty link rule won’t make any difference because mortgage lenders demand them anyway. We’ll have to see if the changes make any difference to costs.”
Foster said that the updated energy performance of Building Regulations would also be introduced on 9 January 2013. The key measures include:
- a requirement for property advertisements to include details of the energy performance certificate rating where available;
- an exemption of listed buildings from the need to have a certificate on their sale or rent;
- extending the current requirement for a display energy certificate in large public buildings, to public buildings above 500m²
- introducing a requirement for a certificate to be displayed in commercial premises larger than 500m² that are frequently visited by the public and where one has been previously issued.
Other changes include:
Part B: Guidance updated in relation to lighting diffusers in line with the consultation together with changes to classification of wall coverings to align with European classifications.
Parts M, K & N: Changes to address areas of conflict and overlap to be reflected in a new AD to part K with amendment slips for M & N. Improved guidance on the use of access statements to promote a more proportionate risk-based approach.