What are Building Regulations?

The Building Regulations are minimum standards for design, construction and alterations to virtually every building. They are developed by the Government and approved by Parliament.

They are designed to ensure new buildings meet health, safety, welfare, convenience and sustainability standards. They relate to the specifics of how a building should be constructed unlike planning permission which is about the principle of whether development should go ahead or not.

Meeting the requirements of the building regulations is the responsibility of the person carrying out the building work and, if they are not the same person, the owner of the building.

 

The Approval Process

The approval process will depend on whether you choose to use the Building Control services of a Local Authority or an Approved Inspector.

If you use an Approved Inspector then you should jointly notify the Local Authority that the Approved Inspector is carrying out the building control function for the work. This is called the “Initial Notice”.

If you use a Local Authority, the procedures are set out in the Building Regulations. Some of them relate to pre-site procedures and others relate to procedures once work is underway on site.

 

 

Full Plans

You can apply for Building Regulations approval from your local authority Building Control Service by submitting a full plans application.

An application deposited under this procedure needs to contain plans and other information showing all construction details, preferably well in advance of when work is to start on site.

Your local authority will check your plans and consult any appropriate authorities (e.g. fire and sewerage). They must complete the procedure by issuing you with a decision within five weeks or, if you agree, a maximum of two months from the date of deposit.

If your plans comply with the Building Regulations you will receive a notice stating that they have been approved. If your local authority is not satisfied you may be asked to make amendments or provide more details. Alternatively, a conditional approval may be issued. This will either specify modifications which must be made to the plans; or will specify further plans which must be deposited with your authority.

Your local authority may only apply conditions if you have either requested them to do so or have consented to them doing so. A request or consent must be made in writing. If your plans are rejected the reasons will be stated in the notice. A full plans approval notice is valid for three years from the date of deposit of the plans, after which the local authority may send you a notice to declare the approval of no effect if the building work has not commenced.

Your local authority will carry out inspections of the building work once it is in progress. They will explain about the notification procedures which the regulations require you to follow at various stages of the work - e.g. in connection with foundations, damp proof courses and drains. In addition, if you request one when you first make your application, the local authority will issue you with a completion certificate provided they are content that the completed work complies with the Building Regulations.

A further point to bear in mind is that, if a disagreement arises with your local authority, the ‘full plans’ procedure enables you to ask for a ‘determination’ from (in England) the Department for Communities and Local Government or (in Wales) the Welsh Assembly Government about whether your plans do or do not comply with the Building Regulations.

 

Building Notice

You can apply for Building Regulations approval from your local authority Building Control Service by giving a building notice.

Plans are not required with this process so it’s quicker and less detailed than the full plans application. It is designed to enable some types of building work to get under way quickly; although it is perhaps best suited to small work.

There are also specific exclusions in the regulations as to when building notices cannot be used. These are:

  • For building work which is subject to section 1 of the Fire Precautions Act 1971
  • Part II of the Fire Precautions (Workplace) Regulations 1997
  • For work which will be built close to or over the top of rain water and foul drains shown on the ‘map of sewers’
  • Where a new building will front onto a private street

If you decide to use this procedure you need to be confident that the work will comply with the Building Regulations or you will risk having to correct any work you carry out if your local authority requests this. In this respect you do not have the protection provided by the approval of ‘full plans’.

Once you have given your ‘building notice’ and informed your local authority that you are about to start work, the work will be inspected as it progresses. You will be advised by the authority if the work does not comply with the Building Regulations. If before the start of work, or while work is in progress, your local authority requires further information such as structural design calculations or plans, you must supply the details requested.

A ‘building notice’ is valid for three years from the date the notice was given to the local authority, after which it will automatically lapse if the building work has not commenced.

On satisfactory completion of works a local authority will automatically issue a completion certificate under either the full plans or building notice procedure. However, it is possible to ask for a determination only when using the full plans procedure.

 

Work Already Carried Out (Regularisation)

Where works are carried out without Building Regulations approval being sought the owner may be prosecuted. However to facilitate people who wish to have work approved, there is a process called Regularisation. A regularisation application is a retrospective application relating to previously unauthorised works i.e. works carried out without Building Regulations consent, started on or after the 11 November 1985.

The purpose of the process is to regularise the unauthorised works and obtain a certificate of regularisation. Depending on the circumstances, exposure, removal and/or rectification of works may be necessary to establish compliance with the Building Regulations.

You are advised to contact your local authority Building Control Service to discuss your individual circumstances before submitting a regularisation application.

 

On site approval

The Building Control Service will make statutory and routine inspections as the work progresses to ensure compliance with the building regulations and other allied legislation.

If you are carrying out building work you are required, under the Building Regulations, to give the local authority notice of when the work has reached a particular stage. The local authority will explain about the notification procedures which the regulations require you to follow at various stages of the work - find out more

 

The on-site approval process

The Building Control Service will make statutory and routine inspections as the work progresses to ensure compliance with the building regulations and other allied legislation.

If you are carrying out building work you are required, under the Building Regulations, to give the local authority notice of when the work has reached a particular stage. The local authority will explain about the notification procedures which the regulations require you to follow at various stages of the work - click here to see the stages.

When these stages are reached the work should pause to give the authority time to make an inspection. They will advise you if the work does not comply with the Building Regulations.

If the local authority is not informed of relevant stages of work for inspection it may, by notice in writing, require the work to be opened up for inspection so that it can be ascertained whether or not the work complies with the Building Regulations.

If a local authority believes that your building work contravenes the Building Regulations, they may serve you with an enforcement notice requiring you to alter or remove work which contravenes the regulations. If you believe that your work does comply and you may appeal against this notice.

Please note: The inspections which BCBs undertake should not be confused with full site supervision. Inspections are only carried out at certain stages of the building work. Completion certificates or final certificates, which local authorities or Approved Inspectors respectively issue, are therefore not a guarantee or warranty for the building work that has been carried out.

 

Site inspections

Where a Local Authority building control service is being used, the Building Regulations require that notice is given to the Local Authority of commencement and completion of the work and at certain other stages:

  • Commencement: at least two days before the work is commenced
  • Completion: not more than five days after the work is completed

In respect of other stages, the notice required is (in practice) at least one whole day’s and relates to:

  • excavation for a foundation (before covering up)
  • the foundation itself (before covering up)
  • any damp proof course (before covering up)
  • any concrete or material laid over a site (before covering up)

When these stages are reached the work should pause to give the authority time to make an inspection. They will advise you if the work does not comply with the Building Regulations.

Where a building is being erected, and that building (or part of it) is occupied before completion, the person carrying out the work is required to give the Local Authority at least five days’ notice before the occupation.

If the local authority is not informed of relevant stages of work for inspection it may, by notice in writing, require the work to be opened up for inspection so that it can be ascertained whether or not the work complies with the Building Regulations.

 

Enforcement appeals

If a local authority believes that your building work contravenes the Building Regulations, they may serve you with an enforcement notice requiring you to alter or remove work which contravenes the regulations. If you believe that your work does comply and wish to appeal against this notice you can:

Advise your local authority that you wish to obtain a written report from a suitably qualified person about the compliance of your work with a view to persuading the authority to withdraw the notice. In this event the 28 day period given by the local authority to rectify the building work is extended to 70 days.

Appeal against the notice in the magistrates’ court and demonstrate there that your building work complies. This option can be used either as an alternative to the above, or if proceedings under that option have been unsuccessful. You must make your appeal within 28 days of receiving the notice or within 70 days if you have used above option first.

If you are successful with either option, your local authority may be required to pay your costs.

If on the other hand you believe that your work cannot be expected to comply with one or more of the requirements in the Building Regulations because they are too onerous or inapplicable, you do have the right to apply to your local authority for a relaxation or dispensation of the requirement(s) in question in order for your completed building work to be considered to achieve compliance.

Your application must be made within 28 days of receiving the enforcement notice from your authority. If they refuse your application you have a right of appeal (in England) to the Department for Communities and Local Government or (in Wales) to the Welsh Assembly Government against that refusal, providing you do so within one month of that decision. However, if you take this course of action in response to an enforcement notice, and if you have originally maintained that your work was in compliance, your case is likely to be more difficult to justify.

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