Written statement to Parliament

Changes to the building regulations

Written Ministerial Statement by The Right Honourable Don Foster MP on changes to the building regulations regime in England.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The Rt Hon Don Foster

I am setting out today the changes that will be made to the building regulations regime in England to deliver an even better and more cost-effective way of ensuring our buildings remain safe and sustainable. The changes will deliver savings of around £50 million per year to business. In addition, legislation will also be laid before Parliament shortly to amend the Energy Performance of Buildings Regulations and to repeal unnecessary fire provisions of Local Acts which overlap national provisions.

The consultation paper issued by the Department for Communities and Local Government on 31 January this year contained a range of proposals to improve the building regulations regime. I am setting out today decisions on the deregulatory changes. I am also publishing today a document providing a factual summary of the responses received. The changes have been developed after active engagement with external partners and demonstrate the government’s ongoing commitment to ensuring that where regulation is necessary the impact on business is properly considered and the associated cost minimised. Decisions on the outstanding issues relating to the energy efficiency of buildings, on better targeting of radon protection measures and the referencing of British Standards for structural design based on Eurocodes will be set out in a further statement next year. We will also set out next year the outcome of the review of the framework of building regulations and local housing standards which I announced in October.

Engagement with our external partners shows that they continue to value the national minimum standards provided by the building regulations. However, where any concerns do arise it is necessary to address them. That is why we listened to those that expressed concern with the costs associated with the electrical safety in the home provisions in Part P of the building regulations. Some have even advocated that Part P should be revoked as a burdensome requirement on competent electricians. We disagree - Part P has been a success - but we do recognise that there is scope to streamline the requirements by removing the requirement to notify smaller-scale, lower-risk electrical work to a building control body. Currently homeowners can face building control fees of upwards of £240 to have simple electrical work, such as an additional plug socket in a kitchen, approved by a local authority. This change will see the notification requirements focused on higher-risk jobs like the installation of new circuits, or work in the vicinity of showers and baths, which is the right approach. There will, of course, remain a duty for these non-notifiable works to comply with the safety provisions required by the regulations and which we have also updated.

The new Part P seeks to achieve a reasonable balance of risk. We will continue to monitor indicators which can help identify the impact of the changes and keep this under review. But the key to ensuring electrical work is done properly is to employ competent electricians and so the department will continue to work closely with external partners to identify what more can be done to promote the importance of complying with the provisions of Part P through use of a suitably-qualified electrician. In addition, I will be bringing forward further regulations later next year that will introduce an alternative route to demonstrating compliance with Part P by allowing for third-party certification of electrical work. This will 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.

In addition, we will be making a number of other changes to the building regulations. We will amend the technical guidance in Approved Document B (Fire safety). In particular, we will update guidance in respect of lighting diffusers which has grown out-of-date as lighting technology has changed considerably. We will also, in relation to wall coverings, be taking forward changes to mitigate problems associated with how the European reaction to fire classifications work in practice. In effect, the changes will maintain the status quo, for example, allowing wallpapers that are currently used to continue to be so in the future. Both these changes have been supported by independent research which shows there are no adverse impacts on safety.

We will also be taking forward rationalisation of guidance supporting Parts M, K and N (Access, Protection from falling, collision and impact and Glazing respectively) to address areas of conflict and overlap, which again impose unnecessary costs. At the same time we will clarify the guidance on Access Statements in Approved Document M to promote a more proportionate, risk-based approach. These changes will be delivered by clearer guidance in a new Approved Document K and amendment of other Approved Documents which I will be publishing shortly. We intend that all of these deregulatory changes will come into force on 6 April 2013.

In addition to the changes to the ‘technical’ provisions, we have also agreed a number of improvements to the building control system. These are relatively minor changes to benefit both local authorities and Approved Inspectors through changes to the procedures around completion certificates, statutory notifications and removal of the ‘Warranty Link Rule’.

The changes to regulations also extend the scope for existing competent person scheme operators. This will allow more work to be self-certified and thereby avoid the need to notify a building control body or pay a building control charge.

In relation to the building regulations, we will also be publishing shortly a new Approved Document 7 which provides updated guidance on adequate materials and workmanship for building work, in particular the implications of the full implementation of the European Construction Products Regulation on 1 July 2013.

Updated Energy Performance of Buildings Regulations will also be laid before the House shortly. These, in addition to consolidating the existing regulations, transpose the requirements of the recast Energy Performance of Buildings Directive 2010 and remove unnecessary ‘gold-plating’. The Directive is an EU measure designed to tackle climate change by reducing the amount of carbon produced by buildings.

The new requirements will 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; removal of the requirement to attach the front page of the certificate to any written material; exempting 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 and; 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.

Finally, given this statement relates to the regulation of buildings, I am informing the House that I will also shortly be laying regulations to repeal unnecessary fire provisions in 23 Local Acts. The decision has been taken in the light of previous consultation which found no evidence to justify maintaining requirements which go beyond the necessary protection already afforded nationally through the building regulations, and lead to differing and inconsistent rules even within fire and rescue authority areas. Evidence does not establish any statistically significant impact on life safety. These changes are intended to come into force on 9 January 2013.

I will be placing the revised guidance in the Approved Documents referred to above, along with the impact assessments that accompany all of these changes, in the Library of the House when they are published shortly and alongside the summary of responses that I am placing there today.

Published 18 December 2012