What are we going to do?
The Building Safety Bill makes wider changes to the Building Act. These are being made:
- where technical changes are needed to align the existing legislation in the Building Act with the new approaches being introduced in the Bill;
- where we want to implement the new approaches in the Bill for building work on all buildings, not simply for in scope buildings; and
- to deal with some long-standing issues of concern in the current legislation, to improve its operation and strengthen compliance.
How are we going to do it?
The changes to building regulations in clause 32 will enable the building control procedures for building work on buildings that are not in scope of the new regime (for high-rise residential buildings) to be improved. We intend to review the way these procedures operate to ensure that they work better for those doing building work and for building control authorities.
We will use powers under clauses 33 and 34 to make regulations that place duties on those who procure, plan, manage and undertake building work. The regulations will apply to all work to which the Building Regulations 2010 apply and require dutyholders to actively consider and manage building safety risks throughout the commissioning, design and construction process, ensuring that designs, if built, as well as the building work, comply with building regulations requirements. Dutyholders will need to plan, manage and monitor the work, cooperate, coordinate and communicate with each other, and ensure that those doing the work are competent with the right skills, knowledge, experience and behaviours for the work they are engaged to undertake. The Dutyholders and Competence factsheet gives further details.
We are proposing to change the Building Act, so that building control approvals will lapse automatically after three years if work has not started (clause 35). This is to provide a clear incentive for work to be started in a timely fashion. Additionally, the benefits of transitional arrangements when new building regulations are introduced will apply only for individual buildings on which work has started.
We are proposing, through new powers being taken in clause 48, for plans certificates, which are issued by registered building control approvers, to be made mandatory in prescribed circumstances. This will provide greater assurance that plans of building work are being fully checked. Details of the prescribed circumstances will be set out in regulations.
We have taken powers to allow local authorities to extend their schemes for charging for their building control activities (clause 56). This will enable local authorities to cover more of the costs which they incur in exercising their building control functions.
We are also clarifying the definitions of key terms, for example, to make clear that where the term ‘work’ is used, this also includes a material change of use of a building. This is so that the requirements of the Building Act apply when there is a change of use.
The Building Act 1984 sets out the legislative framework for the building control system. The changes to the building control system to create the new, more stringent regulatory regime for high-rise residential buildings in design and construction are being implemented through changes to the Building Act and new building regulations. We have taken the opportunity, through the Building Safety Bill, to make wider changes to the Building Act to ensure that it is fit for purpose and that, where appropriate, the new approaches in the Bill are applied to all building work, not just for buildings in scope of the new regulatory regime for high-rise residential buildings.
Does this mean that the system for out-of-scope buildings is broken as well?
The Building Act is over 35 years old and needs to be improved. Some of the problems identified by Dame Judith Hackitt are equally relevant to building work on ‘out-of-scope’ buildings and she felt that some of her reforms could be applied across all building work. The Building Safety Bill takes advantage of the opportunity to improve the system for controlling all building work.
Why aren’t all the changes for in scope buildings being applied to all buildings?
We are adopting a proportionate approach. It would not be appropriate to apply all the requirements for controlling building work on a new high-rise block of flats to a household extension, for example.
Why are you allowing local authorities to extend their charging schemes?
About two thirds of the costs of local authority building control work is already covered by charges. However, local authorities are not able to charge for some functions for which they are responsible – for example, work on dangerous buildings or demolitions – so we want to work with local authorities to enable them to recover more of their costs.
Our approach is in line with Dame Judith Hackitt’s recommendation that the costs of the new regime should be covered by charges as far as possible.
Are you going to change the Building Regulations as well?
Subject to the passage of the Bill, we expect to update the building regulations for ‘out-of-scope’ buildings following Royal Assent. We will make announcements about timings in due course. Changes to the regulations will be subject to consultation.
What aren’t you doing anything about the ‘non worsening’ clause in building regulations?
Building regulations say that when building work is undertake on an existing building it should ensure that the building is no worse in terms of compliance than it was before the work started. However, there is no requirement to improve the levels of compliance.
It is an established principle that building regulations should not be applied retrospectively. The ‘non worsening’ clause recognises that it may not be feasible to try and apply modern standards to old buildings.
For in scope buildings, the ‘non worsening’ clause does not affect the responsibility of a building’s Principle Accountable Person to prepare a safety case and put in place measures to manage the safety of the building.