Last edited 01 Oct 2015

Housing standards review

The ‘Housing standards review’ (HSR) was launched by the government in October 2012 following the housing and construction 'Red Tape Challenge', which began in Spring 2012.

It was a review of the building regulations framework and housing standards, intended to consolidate and simplify codes, standards, rules, regulations and guidance in order to reduce unnecessary costs and complexities in the house building process. It was undertaken by a range of cross-sectoral working groups that made proposals on:

  • Accessibility.
  • Space.
  • Security.
  • Water efficiency.
  • Energy.
  • Indoor environmental standards.
  • Materials.
  • Process and compliance.

The review was followed by a housing standards review consultation launched in August 2013 and closed in October 2013 which stated:

‘Aside from the Code for Sustainable Homes and the Housing Quality Indicators, which the government own, standards are all drawn from documents produced by non-Governmental groups who perceive that current national guidance, policy or regulation is deficient in some respect, and needs to be supplemented. They are rarely subject to cost benefit analysis when they are developed, unlike government guidance or regulation. Some examples of the most commonly imposed standards are Lifetime Homes, Secured by Design, the Merton Rule, the London Housing Design Guide, and local space standards.’

The government argues that this can lead to duplication and even contradiction.

A summary of responses to the consultation was published on 13 March 2014 accompanied by a written ministerial statement and supporting note and the government’s response to a report by the Environmental Audit Committee on the code for sustainable homes and the review.

Communities Minister Stephen Williams said, ‘Currently, a builder may have to have the same work checked by the planning authority, a Code for Sustainable Homes Assessor, a building control organisation, the Homes and Communities Agency and independent standard assessors - under the new system technical requirements will be assessed by building control bodies alone.’ Ref Government plans will make it easier and cheaper to build homes to a high standard 13 March 2014.

He stated an intention to reduce housing standards from 100 to fewer than 10, with the majority of requirements being set out in revised building regulations, rather than being set by local authorities. However, the new system will include ‘optional’ building regulations, which will only apply ‘where it is right to do so’, with councils deciding whether to apply them or not.

It was also confirmed that the government would develop a national space standard to be available to councils ‘where there was a need and where this would not stop development’.

The written ministerial statement proposed that, ‘The Government will press ahead with the work to consolidate necessary standards into the Regulations during this Parliament. Draft regulations and technical standards will be published in the summer, with necessary statutory regulations and supporting approved documents coming into force at the turn of the year.’

On 12 September 2014, the government published draft standards for consultation. See Draft housing standards for more information.

On 27 March 2015 the government launched the new approach and published a new set of streamlined national technical standards.

The new approach:

The optional regulations on access and water efficiency and the space standard can only be applied where there is a local plan policy based on evidenced local need and where the viability of development is not compromised. The space standard will replace existing space standards used by local authorities. It is part of the planning system, and not a building regulation.

It was also announced that the Code for Sustainable Homes could no longer be a requirement of planning conditions, and that the Building Regulations would change so that energy requirements are set equivalent to level 4 of the code.

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