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Watts Bulletin (Issue 138)

Welcome to the first issue of the Watts Technical Bulletin for 2013. The year began on a freezing cold note and the same could be said for the fortunes of the construction industry which remains in the doldrums after a poor fourth quarter in 2012. Bad weather is never good for the industry but the British Chamber of Commerce is forecasting a slight improvement in the industry’s fortunes, predicting positive but weak growth of 0.3% in 2013 and 1.2% in 2014.

In an attempt to get construction back to work – and improve levels of house building - the government is in the process of slashing red tape and streamlining the Building Regulations to make the whole process less onerous, cheaper and faster to get off the ground. In this issue we take a look at the proposed changes to the Building Regulations regime both in England and Scotland.

We also report on new guidance on the Community Infrastructure Levy, which aims to simplify the system for local authorities and get Britain building by ensuring developers don’t end up paying twice for the privilege.  Also in this bulletin, we look at the latest satisfaction survey from the Property Industry Alliance – bad news for retail landlords – and consider the changes brought in by the Energy Performance of Buildings Regulations 2012.

Finally, subscribers to this bulletin and to the Watts Pocket Handbook will be pleased to know that in future, access to all Watts’ technical advice and information will be available online from your desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone. As if you didn’t know already – there’s an app for that...

Watts Bulletin (Issue 138)

All change for Building Regulations

In December last year, Don Foster, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, set out changes to the Building Regulations regime in England with the aim of delivering “an even better and more cost-effective way of ensuring our buildings remain safe and sustainable”. The changes are expected to deliver savings of around £50 million per year to business. In addition, legislation will also be laid before Parliament to amend the Energy Performance of Buildings Regulations and to repeal unnecessary fire provisions of Local Acts which overlap national provisions.

January Bulletin 2013 Main

As the result of a consultation carried out during 2012, a number of deregulatory changes will be made, including changes to Part P (Electrical Safety), removing the requirement to notify smaller-scale, lower-risk electrical work to a building control body. In future, notification requirements will focus on higher-risk jobs like the installation of new circuits, or work in the vicinity of showers and baths although non-notifiable works must still comply with the safety provisions required by the regulations - which have also been updated. The new Part P “seeks to achieve a reasonable balance of risk” and the changes will be accompanied by simpler, clearer and shorter guidance in a new Approved Document P.

Technical guidance in Approved Document B (Fire safety) is to be amended, guidance in respect of lighting diffusers updated and changes will be made to the rules governing use of wall coverings. Guidance supporting Parts M (Access), K (Protection from falling, collision and impact) and N (Glazing) will be rationalised to address areas of conflict and overlap, which cause unnecessary costs. Guidance on Access Statements in Approved Document M will also be clarified to promote a more proportionate, risk-based approach.

These changes will be delivered by clearer guidance in a new Approved Document K and amendment of other Approved Documents will be published in the next few months. All of these deregulatory changes will come into force on 6 April 2013.

Mr Foster said: “The changes have been developed after active engagement with external partners and demonstrate the government’s ongoing commitment to ensuring that where regulation is necessary the impact on business is properly considered and the associated cost minimised.”

Decisions on a range of outstanding issues including the energy efficiency of buildings, better targeting of radon protection measures and the referencing of British Standards for structural design based on Eurocodes will be set out in a further statement to be published later this year. The government also plans to set out the outcome of the review of the framework of building regulations and local housing standards announced in October.

For more information on the Building Regulations, contact Allen Gilham, Associate at Watts Group PLC, on 020 7280 8094.

Do you think a shake-up of the Building Regulations will help kickstart construction output? Join the discussion on Watts’ Twitter page @Watts_Group or become a member of the Watts Bulletin group on LinkedIn.

The Watts Bulletin is the technical companion to the Watts Pocket Handbook, the essential guide to property and construction, as used by professionals since 1983.

Watts Bulletin editor: Trevor Rushton.