General guidance notes

Building Regulations - what are they?

Building Regulations impose a set of minimum standards on people carrying out certain specified works in or about buildings. They are primarily for the purposes of public health and safety, the conservation of fuel and power and access and use of buildings.

Building Control ensures, through the checking of plans and the inspection of work, that these requirements are met.

Matters covered by the Building Regulations and Approved Documents include:

  • structural stability: foundations, floors, walls and roofs
  • fire safety: means of escape, detection and early warning, signs and lighting, fire spread and fire service access
  • site contamination and moisture: clearance and treatment, contaminants, subsoil drainage, floors, walls and roofs
  • cavity insulation: prevention of toxic fumes
  • sound insulation: between buildings and parts of buildings, within a dwelling, reverberation in common parts of flats and rooms for residential purposes andacoustic conditions in schools
  • ventilation: air supply and extraction
  • sanitary provisions: toilets, washing facilities, bathrooms and hot water storage
  • drainage: foul drainage, rainwater drainage, building over sewers, separate drainage systems and solid waste storage
  • combustion appliances: air supply, discharge of gases, protection of building, protection of liquid fuel systems andprotection against pollution
  • stairs, etc.: stairs and ramps, protection from falling and vehicle barriers
  • conservation of fuel and power: CO2 emissions, thermal insulation, space heating and hot water storage controls, insulation of vessels, pipes and ducts, lighting, solar overheating and energy efficiency
  • access to and use of buildings: access to buildings, access into buildings, horizontal and vertical circulation, facilities such as audience, spectators, refreshments, sleeping accommodation, switches and controls, communication aids and toilets and dwellings
  • glazing: safety in relations to impact, opening and cleaning
  • electrical safety: design, installation, inspection and testing in dwellings.

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Building Regulations - options

Full Plans

This option is suitable for all types of proposed work. It involves submitting two copies of the plans and information in sufficient detail to show that the construction will comply with the Building Regulations.

Plans are checked for compliance, with the Building Regulations, and a decision is made. We will discuss any amendments with you to help you gain approval.

You are advised to check whether your work affects a public sewer prior to submitting your application. Your local water authority will require you to obtain consent from them, and in certain circumstances, instruct us to refuse your proposals or require precautions to be taken to protect the sewer.

When work involves buildings subject to fire safety legislation, such as offices, shops, factories, hotels and workplaces an additional copy of plans showing compliance with Part B (Fire Safety) is required.

A list of key construction stages will be issued to you so that you can contact us and arrange inspection of your work.

If work has not commenced within three years of the date on which the application was deposited, we may issue a letter informing you that the deposit of plans is declared to be of no effect.

Building Notice

This option notifies us that you intend to carry out work.

If the work involves the erection or extension of a building, plans of the site, location of the proposal and details of any drainage work are required on submission.

Plans are not approved with this option, although we may ask you to submit additional information to justify work. Building Notices are suited to minor works for people who have a good knowledge of building and the Building Regulations.

Building Notices, unless the work is an emergency repair, cannot be used where work effects a public sewer, involves the erections of a building fronting onto a private street or involves buildings subject to certain fire safety legislation. Full Plans should be used in these instances.

A list of key construction stages will be issued to you so that you can contact us and arrange inspection of your work.

A Building Notice automatically expires if work is not commenced within three years of the date on which the notice was given.

Regularisation

This option allows the owner of a building to apply for retrospective Building Regulation approval for illegal building work. It cannot be used for any work that was carried out before 1 November 1985. On deposit of the application we will:

  • assess any plans and information and arrange a site visit to verify information
  • issue a report listing any items that do not comply with the regulations
  • inspect work that has been opened up and, where appropriate, agree a timetable for the making good of defective work and
  • inspect remedial work as it is carried out and if satisfactorily completed issue a Certificate.

An application for a Regularisation Certificate does not prevent the Council taking legal action, where possible, for failure to comply with the Building Regulations when the work was first carried out.

Reversion

This option is available, to the owner of a building, following the withdrawal of an Approved Inspector. The procedure is similar to theRegularisation option.

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Building Regulations - who needs to apply?

Building Regulations apply to any work that is classed as building work. This includes:

  • new buildings or extensions
  • installing, extending or altering services or fittings. This includes replacement windows, foul and storm water drainage, sanitary equipment, unvented hot water systems, heating appliances an; electrical installations in or attached to a dwelling. Competent Persons Scheme may be used for some work involving services or fittings
  • inserting cavity wall insulation
  • underpinning
  • alterations affecting stability, fire safety or access and use requirements. This includes removal of all or part of a load bearing wall, converting a loft into a room, converting a garage into a room, re-tiling a roof if the tiles are heavier or lighter than those taken off, replacement ground floors and the installation of a shop front
  • changing the use of all or part of a building. This includes a dwelling, flat or building with an increased or decreased number of dwellings or flats, a hotel or boarding house, an institution, a public building or a shop, a building which is no longer in one of the exempt building categories an; a building which contains rooms for residential purposes or has an increased or decreased number of rooms for residential purposes
  • renovating or replacing thermal elements. This includes cladding, rendering, re-rendering or re-plastering external walls, re-tiling or re-felting a roof and re-boarding timber ground floors and
  • changing the energy status of a building. This includes changing the internal environment in a building such as lighting, heating or cooling.

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Exemptions

Building Regulations are drafted to protect health and safety. In an attempt to reduce the legislative burden for small buildings where there was considered to be no risk to health and safety, the Building Regulations exempt from the requirements the buildings listed below.

Extensions to buildings

The extension of a building at ground floor level having a floor area which does not exceed 30m2 by the addition of:

  • conservatory* - 75% of the roof and 50% of the external walls are glazed with transparent materials and any doors between the existing dwelling and the new conservatory being maintained
  • porch* - providing a covered approach to the entrance to a dwelling and any doors between the existing dwelling and porch being maintained
  • covered yard or covered way
  • car port open on at least two sides.

* Conservatories or porches are exempt only if the glazing they contain complies with Part N of the Building Regulations (see advisory leaflet on safety glazing).

Small detached buildings

  • Single storey building, having a floor area which does not exceed 15m2, which contains no sleeping accommodation, constructed of any material.
  • Single storey building having a floor area which does not exceed 30m2, containing no sleeping accommodation, and constructed substantially of non-combustible material, or sited at least 1m from the boundary of its curtilage.
  • Nuclear shelters under 30m2 floor area. Excavation for the shelter not to be nearer to other buildings than the depth of the excavation plus 1m.

Ancillary buildings

  • Builders huts containing no sleeping accommodation.
  • Estate sales buildings.
  • Buildings other than dwellings or offices used in connection with a mine or quarry.

Greenhouses and agricultural buildings

  • Greenhouses are only exempt providing they are not used for retailing, packing or exhibiting. Greenhouses used as a garden centre shop are not exempt.
  • Agricultural buildings and buildings principally for keeping animals are exempt if they are not used as a dwelling, are at least one and a half times their height from any building where there is sleeping accommodation and have a fire exit not more than 30m from any point in a building.

Temporary buildings

Those which remain for less than 28 days.

Building not frequented by people

  • These are detached buildings into which persons do not normally go or only intermittently to inspect plant and machinery.
  • The exemption only applies if the building is sited at least one and a half times its height, either from the boundary or from the point on a building into which people normally go.

Building controlled under other legislation

  • Buildings subject to the Explosives Acts.
  • Buildings other than houses or offices erected on a site licensed under the Nuclear Installations Act.
  • Buildings includes in the Schedule to Section 1 of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act.
  • Certain buildings of statutory undertakers and other specified bodies.
  • Crown property.

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Disabled access to buildings

This section provides information about improvements to building legislation which will help the disabled.

The Disability Discrimination Act

This Act relates to all buildings and premises to which the public have access and also relates to employers and their responsibilities to their staff. From 1 October 2004, service providers have had to make reasonable adjustments to the physical features of their premises to overcome physical barriers to access.

Access statements

Access statements should be submitted with the following types of planning application:

  • residential applications involving the construction of one or more newly built dwellings
  • applications for change of use
  • non-domestic applications involving new buildings or alterations to existing buildings.

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A guide to building inspections

When can I start work?

Once you have given a Building Notice or submitted a Full Plans application, you can start work at any time, but you must give the Councila 'Notice of Commencement' two days before doing so. However, if you start work before you receive a decision on your Full Plans application, you may not be able to see a 'determination' from the Secretary of State if there is a dispute.

Building Regulation 15 gives full details of the provision of notices.

Notes:

  1. It is your responsibility to contact the Building Control Officer at each of the stages as detailed when the work is ready for inspection. You may either do this yourself or request your builder/agent to do it on your behalf.
  2. Our Building Control Service can easily be contacted for site inspection in any one of the following ways:
    a) by using pre-printed notification cards provided with each Building Regulations Approval Notice/Building Notice acceptance letter
    b) via our Support Officer during office hoursand
    c) by telephoning to the Building Control Surveyor dealing with your project.
  3. Please note: The time periods shown below are the legal requirements. We are pleased to improve on these where it will assist our customers and generally same day visits can be accommodated.

How the Building Regulations are enforced and your right to appeal

The Building Regulations can be contravened by not following the building control procedures set out for handling your building work. They can also be contravened by carrying out building work which does not comply with the technical requirements contained in the Building Regulations. This will come to light during the inspections carried out by the building control service.

How are the Building Regulations enforced?

The Council has a general duty to enforce the Building Regulations in its area and will do so by informal means wherever possible.

Where an approved inspector is providing the building control service, the responsibility for checking that the regulations are complied with will lie with that inspector. They will do this by advising you. However, they do not have enforcement powers. In a situation where they consider your building work does not comply with the regulations, they will not issue you with a final certificate and will cancel the initial notice by notifying the Council. If no other approved inspector takes on the work, the building control service will automatically be taken on by the Council. From this point, the Council will have enforcement powers to require you to alter your work, if they consider this necessary.

If a person carrying out building work contravenes the Building Regulations, the Councilmay decide to takeyou to the Magistrates' Court where you could be fined up to 5,000 for the contravention, and up to 50 for each day the contravention continues after conviction.

This action (under Section 35 of the Building Act 1984) will usually be taken against the builder or main contractor, although proceedings should be taken within six months of the offence. Alternatively, or in addition, the Council may (under Section 36 of the Act) serve an Enforcement Notice on the owner requiring them to alter or remove work which contravenes the regulations. If the owner does not comply with the notice, the Council has the power to undertake the work itself and recover the costs from the owner.

You cannot be served with a Section 36 Enforcement Notice more than 12 months after the date of completion of the building work. But this does not affect the Council's (or any other person's) right to apply to the Courts for an injunction for the same purpose. A Local Authority cannot take enforcement action under Sections 35 and 36 if the work which you have carried out is in accordance with your plans which the authority approved or failed to reject within the statutory time of five weeks (or two months with your agreement) from deposit of the plans.

What happens if you disagree with a Local Authority's Enforcement Notice?

Normally a Local Authority's Enforcement Notice will give you 28 days to rectify the building work.

If you wish to contest the Notice on the grounds that you believe your building work does comply with the Building Regulations, you can advise your Local Authority that you would like to commission 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 to rectify the building work is extended to 70 days.

Alternatively, you can appeal against the Notice in the Magistrates' Court and demonstrate 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 should 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,the Councilmay have 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 should be made within 28 days of receiving the Enforcement Notice from the Council. If they refuse your application you have a right of appeal to the Department for Communities and Local Government against that refusal, providing you do so within one month of that decision.

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General notes

Fees

Local Authorities are obliged to make a charge for the work of administrating the Building Regulations. A fee is payable in two stages, the first at the time plans are submitted. A further fee may be payable following the first inspection on site. An account will be forwarded to you immediately after this inspection.

Amendments

When the drawings are inspected it may be noted that a number of minor amendments are required. In order than unnecessary delays are eliminated, we take the opportunity to add these amendments to the drawings on your behalf. They appear on the plan in red ink and we would advise that your builder be informed before commencing work on site.

Conditional approvals

Where plans are defective or show a contravention of the Regulations, the plans may still be approved subject to conditions requiring specified modifications or the deposit of further plans. These amendments or additional details should be deposited without delay and not less than five weeks prior to the work starting on site.

Foundations and trees

Where proposals involve the excavation of foundations, consideration needs to be given to the ground conditions, and the position and type of trees (if any), within the area of the proposed work. This is generally recognised as within a distance equal to the mature height of the tree. The surveyor responsible for your work will gladly arrange a site visit in order to advise a safe depth for the foundation.

Party walls and fences

Should your proposed work involve works to an existing wall shared with another property; a new building on a boundary with a neighbouring property; or excavating within 6m of the boundary then you should establish whether the work falls within the scope of the Party Wall Act 1996. If it does you must serve a statutory notice on all affected owners.

Rights of light

If the works involve the carrying out of works that may in any way interfere with the amount of light received by the adjoining property, your are advised to consult with the owner of the property at the design stage. Consultation before commencement may avoid claims for damages due to loss of light after the building has been erected. Any disputes arising over rights of light should be resolved between you and your neighbour as they are matters of civil law.

Completion Certificates

When the building control surveyor is satisfied that building works on site comply with the requirements of the Building Regulations, a Completion Certificate will be issued. This Certificate will indicate to funding institutions and the legal profession that new works will, so far as the Council has been able to ascertain, conform with the substantive requirement of the Regulations.

Planning permission

In addition to Building Regulations, you may also require planning permission. Before you start work please contact Planning Services for guidance regarding this matter.