On 13th March Government published a statement setting out its proposed next steps in taking forward policies set out in the 2013 consultation on the Housing Standards Review.
They confirmed that they are committed to making significant progress within the course of this parliament in implementing the outcomes of the Review.
They also confirmed that those standards considered necessary as a result of the review process would be, wherever possible, consolidated in to the Building Regulations and supporting Approved Documents.
The consultation was supported by a set of illustrative technical standards and DCLG will be developing these as appropriate into detailed technical standards in Approved Documents to accompany relevant proposed Optional Requirements.
The standards which are proposed to be consolidated in to building regulations now need to be integrated into the Approved Documents along with all the necessary supporting guidance.
Draft regulations and technical standards will be published for consultation in the summer, with necessary statutory regulations and supporting approved documents coming into force at the turn of the year.
The consultation made clear the Government’s intention that planning authorities should only use the standards emerging from the review process.
The Government will be issuing a statement later this year when the new standards are published, which will explain how this policy will be executed.
This means that many of the requirements of the Code for Sustainable Homes will be consolidated into Building Regulations, which would require substantial changes to the content of the current Code, as well as a reconsideration of its role.
In the light of this, the Government thinks that the current Code will need to be wound down to coincide with the changes incorporating the new standards coming into force.
They will therefore make further announcements on the transitional arrangements, and the handling of legacy developments being built out to current Code requirements.
Areas being looked at are:
Minimum access standards in Part M (Access to and use of buildings) will be retained. In addition, an optional level of accessibility will be introduced in Part M which will set out criteria for age friendly, accessible and adaptable housing.
There will also be set out within Part M an optional standard which will set out criteria setting out the specific needs of wheelchair adaptable and accessible housing.
These optional levels would not be universally mandatory, but local authorities will be able to adopt them to meet local needs, according to duly evidenced local circumstances or individual needs, and subject to viability testing.
Whilst the Government recognises the value of a single minimum security standard for new homes, based on industry’s best practice they are also considering the evidence on whether such a standard should be applied to all new homes, as a Building Regulation applied nationally or whether it would be more proportionate if applied on a local basis.
It is proposed to introduce a new, tighter level of water efficiency into the Building Regulations, to be set at 110 litres/person/day (lpd). This would be an optional higher level, in addition to the current level of 125 lpd, which could only be applied in areas with specific local needs (such as water stress). This would be chosen by the local authority based on agreed evidence criteria. Government will need to consider the best way to define areas of water stress to ensure this works in practice.
Whilst Government believes that it is right that local communities and neighbourhoods should have the ability to shape the nature of new development in their local areas, it is recognised that a proliferation of localised and varying space standards would create a potentially significant barrier to delivery of housing. They are therefore looking at developing a new national standard – not a Building Regulation - which will offer a consistent set of requirements with regard to the internal area of new homes. This will have two different sets of specifications, based on a consolidation of existing space standards used by authorities across the country.
Application of the standard would be optional for local authorities to use and they would need to justify its application according to evidenced needs and subject to local plan viability testing.
It is proposed that for each of the above standards there is set up a working group to review the technical material in light of the consultation responses; evolve the technical material where necessary to be suitable for inclusion in statutory guidance and help the department with drafts of relevant documentation.
It is also proposed that there is a Process Group set up to advise on the process of how this will work and how optional requirements should be applied.
A key issue for all the areas being considered is what the criteria and evidence requirements for the application of optional standards would be. The Government has proposed that the conditions for applying optional standards would themselves form part of the relevant building regulations.
There are groups set up for each of the 5 areas outlined above. (Access, Security, Water, Space and Process) and HBF will be involved in each of these groups.
There is no group for Energy.
This is because Energy will be a Building Regulations only approach, with no optional additional local standards in excess of the provisions set out in Part L of the Regulations.
In the 2013 Budget the Government reaffirmed its commitment to implement the zero carbon homes policy for new homes from 2016. This will be achieved through a strengthening of the energy performance requirements in Part L of the Building Regulations (incorporating carbon compliance, energy efficient fabric and services), and the delivery of allowable solutions.
The Government considered a range of other issues in the Housing Standards Review consultation. The Government is not taking forward any work on these matters during this Parliament.
Dave Mitchell Technical Director
Home Builders Federation
London, SE1 9PL
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