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Briefings

HBF Member Briefing: Further consultation on the Housing Standards Review

Date: 16/09/14

Further consultation on the Housing Standards Review

Further consultation on the Housing Standards Review

This note supplements our briefing note of 12 September and provides a more detailed initial summary and assessment of the Government’s final proposals for implementing the Housing Standards Review.

The full set of documents issued on Friday for the current consultation can be accessed via the following links:

Written Ministerial Statement to parliament

http://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons-vote-office/September%202014/12%20September/3-Housing-Standards.pdf

Consultation and technical documents

https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/housing-standards-review-technical-consultation

Impact Assessment and background documents

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/housing-standards-review-technical-consultation-impact-assessment

Overview

In broad terms the proposals in the consultation are much as we had expected.

There will be:

  • Optional higher level standards requirements in Building Regulations for accessibility (separate options for age friendly and wheelchair user requirements) and water efficiency

  • A new Building Regulation on security (to become Part Q)

  • An optional national space standard sitting outside the Building Regulations which can be adopted through local plan policies where justified.

The consultation includes the draft detailed proposals for these standards in the form of amendments to the relevant Approved Documents in Building Regulations and, in the case of security, a new Approved Document. There is also a separate document summarising the proposed space standard. The details of these proposals are summarised below.

The use of the optional higher level Building Regulations standards and the new national space standard in any local area would have to be justified by need. The main consultation document sets out draft planning principles to determine the circumstances when optional requirements may be triggered and adopted in local plans and what “needs tests” are appropriate.

The Government is also seeking views on the nature of a planning statement to ensure that local authorities cannot impose technical standards beyond those proposed following the Review. This statement would have immediate effect at the time of publication and transitional arrangements are proposed for the period before it comes into force.

The Government states that Neighbourhood Planning Authorities (and Neighbourhood Development Orders) will only be able to apply the space standard and not the optional levels of the Building Regulations. Local authorities would only be able to apply optional standards through the adoption of local plan policies tested at public examination against the relevant “needs tests”. Supplementary Planning Guidance could not be used for the adoption of optional standards. If adopted in local plans, optional standards would be applied to developments via planning conditions.

Subject to parliamentary approval of the Deregulation Bill which will provide the powers for optional levels of the Building Regulations, the new optional standards, the Planning Statement and the criteria for applying optional standards will be published at the same time in the early part of 2015. The new Approved Documents would then come into force six months later in autumn 2015.

The consultation document states that:

“As many of the requirements of the Code for Sustainable Homes will be consolidated into the Building Regulations, the Code will be wound down from the time the [planning] statement is made.”

Therefore from the date of the statement, new plan policies should not refer to the Code.

The proposed standards

Consultation draft of Approved Document G – Water Efficiency

This is the draft of the proposed revised Part G. It still contains the mandatory 125 litres per head per day requirement, but now also includes the 110 litres per head per day optional requirement that can be applied by the local authority through a planning condition.

Also included is a simpler alternative way of complying via a fittings approach method.

The consultation document states:

“The intention would be that Local Planning Authorities should, when considering adoption of a local optional requirement on water efficiency in their

Local Plans, consult with the local water supplier(s), developers and the Environment Agency.

“The Government is working with the Environment Agency regarding the evidence for where there are local water resource issues that would require a local tighter standard. The intention would be that this is published alongside the Housing Standards Review package next year.”

Consultation draft of Approved Document H – Solid Waste Storage

This is the draft of the proposed revised Part H. It clarifies the existing guidance surrounding the design of waste storage which now reflects the wording in planning guidance.

It also has addresses the ‘Bin Blight’ problem when, for example, a large building is converted into flats, which the document says remains a Government priority.

Consultation draft of Approved Document M – Access to and use of Buildings

This is the draft of the proposed revised Part M. The changes apply to new dwellings. The technical requirement of the mandatory elements of approved document M do not change. They have however been updated into a format compatible with other optional requirements. This will be Category 1 Visitable dwellings.

There will also be two other categories which are ‘Optional Requirements’.

The three categories are;

Category 1 Visitable dwellings – that can, as a minimum, be visited by a range of people, including some wheelchair users.

Category 2 Accessible and adaptable dwellings – that provide a higher level of accessibility that is beneficial to a wide range of people who occupy or visit the dwelling, and provides particular benefit to older and disabled people, including some wheelchair users.

Category 3 Wheelchair user dwellings – that are suitable, or potentially suitable through adaptation, to be occupied by wheelchair users.

The consultation document states:

“The decision by a local authority to adopt a policy should rest on the outcome of its housing needs assessment and taking into account other relevant factors and issues.

Factors which might influence a decision include:

  • The likely future need for housing for older and disabled people (including wheelchair user dwellings)

  • Whether particular sizes and types of housing are needed to meet specifically evidenced needs (for example retirement homes, sheltered homes or care homes)

  • The accessibility and adaptability of its existing housing stock

  • The overall impact on viability.”

For non-affordable rent or social rent properties, only wheelchair adaptable homes could be required as opposed to immediately wheelchair usable homes.

All three suggested categories warrant examination as there will be cost implications which need to be clearly understood.

Consultation draft of Approved Document Q – Unauthorised access

This is the draft of the proposed revised Part Q that is the introduction of a national mandatory regulation on security standards for all new homes. It has more stringent requirements than the current NHBC standards.

It basically states that all windows and doorsets should be made to a design which has been tested to meet the requirements of British Standard publication PAS: 24:2012.

Consultation Draft of Nationally Described Space Standard – technical requirements

This is not a Building Regulation. This is a national, non-mandatory, cross tenure space standard that local authorities and communities can choose to use to influence the size of new homes in their local area.

The consultation states:

“Should they wish to adopt a policy on space standards in their Local Plans, local authorities should assess and evidence the impact and effect of that policy on development in their local area”.

This might include;

  • Need – evidence on the size and type of dwellings currently being built in their area to ensure that the impacts of adopting space standards can be properly assessed

  • Viability –impact of adopting the space standard is likely to form one part of their viability assessment taking into account the impact of potentially larger dwellings on land supply

  • Affordability – given the need for a mix of housing types local authorities may need to consider and evidence how affordability will be maintained in the local housing market where a space standard is to be adopted

  • Timing – there may need to be a reasonable transitional period following

adoption of a new policy on space standards to enable developers to factor the cost of space standards into future land acquisition.”

This along with Part M potentially has the biggest implications with regards to costs and viability.

As well as potentially having to increase the sizes of some of the smaller end range of house type designs there is also within the document the requirement of having a minimum floor to ceiling height of 2.5 metres.

Housing Standards Review – Technical Consultation document

This document takes you through the legislative and process considerations and goes through the optional requirements and nationally described standards and how they are applied. There is also a chart which shows the linkage of the housing standards review with planning.

It also contains and attempts to explain the 20 associated questions.

Next steps

This is an eight week consultation running until 7 November. HBF will be consulting members on our response to the consultation and holding member meetings on its proposals. We plan a specific discussion with DCLG officials before finalising our consultation response. We will keep you updated.