Building on the work of the Housing Implementation Taskforce, this wide-ranging review led by the Cabinet Office, DCLG and BIS aimed to identify and remove unnecessary regulatory barriers to growth and associated costs to the house building sector, while ensuring necessary protections are maintained.
Objectives of the consultation
This house building review aimed to examine any aspects of regulation or the way it is implemented which could be made simpler, more cost-effective, efficient, proportionate, or consistent. It sought evidence on everything from planning and post planning consents, through to building houses, supply chains and the market. Issues that the Housing Implementation Taskforce initially identified as burdens to the industry included:
- road infrastructure for new housing developments;
- environmental or ecology requirements; and
- regulations affecting provision of utilities.
The Government was interested to hear if any legislation derived from EU obligations has been implemented more strictly than required, and looked at the wider issues faced by house builders in meeting the requirements of the law, including but not limited to:
- how and where they access information about their legal obligations and the quality, consistency and utility of guidance and related papers;
- what information is needed to support their compliance, and how they prefer to access advice and guidance;
- the cumulative impact of complying with different regimes, the interaction between them, and the impact of compliance activities and requirements carried out by different public authorities;
- experience of how regulatory activity works in the UK, compared with other regimes;
- data, information requests, visits and inspections;
- activity undertaken by the regulators to support business compliance;
- any ‘knock-on effects’ arising from compliance with legislation – for example, where action to meet one set of regulations leads to conflict with, or additional requirements to meet, another set of regulations;
- the interactions house builders and off site manufacturers have with the regulatory authorities, including on site; and
- the consistency of compliance and enforcement decisions and ease of appealing them.
The review also sought evidence of cross-cutting regulatory issues:
- particularly affecting small companies;
- derived from health and safety regulation;
- creating barriers to entry to the sector or innovation or investment within it;
- limiting exports by the sector; and
- encountered where third parties are encouraging companies to undertake unnecessary compliance activity e.g. where regulation does not actually require a company to do something but they are led to believe that it does.
The consultation closed on 27 January 2016. Suggestions and evidence received will help determine which deregulatory measures would be likely to have the greatest cumulative impact across the sector, prioritising these accordingly.
CIBSE believes that the primary focus of this review should be on maintaining necessary protections; particularly for consumers and for the natural environment which sustains our society. We should maintain a system of technical regulations for buildings and seek to continually improve the standards of the buildings in which we live and work. Building Regulations exist to ensure the health and safety of building occupants, and so the Regulations for housing are about ensuring the health and safety of homes. For home owners, this is about ensuring that the greatest investments of their lives are safe and healthy and therefore protect the value of their investments. There is little evidence that the Regulations are burdensome, but there is evidence that the regulations are not as effectively met as they could be, undermining the consumer protection they provide.
CIBSE recommends that greater attention be given to ensuring on site compliance with building standards, especially at a time when local authority resources are constrained and new skills in low carbon technologies are required for Building Inspection services, both for the public sector and private sector. Given the current understanding that design performance is not routinely achieved in practice, enhanced enforcement of compliance will help to improve the sustainability of homes and avoid additional costs for residents over the life of their homes.
There are some issues which are becoming more and more urgent, for example, there is mounting evidence that overheating risk in new homes is increasing and that the risk of overheating is not properly evaluated in either the normal Building Regulation compliance process or in the planning submission process. The Government should be tackling such issues because failing to do so will lead to burdens and costs in other areas such as health.
The recent experiences with flooding in the north of England demonstrate that it is essential that great care is taken over the location of new homes, to make sure proper steps are taken to ensure the resilience of new homes. It should not be viewed as burdensome to ensure that homes are resilient. Equally, energy efficient homes save hard working families considerable amounts in year on year running costs by reducing utility bills. There may be small additional costs to deliver energy efficiency, but these are far outweighed by the savings to consumers.