Ministers have set up a “radical and fundamental” review to rationalise the framework of building regulations and housing standards.
The Department for Communities and Local Government is reviewing regulations and standards around structural safety, fire safety, toxic substances, conservation of fuel and power, disabled access and electrical safety.
According to the UK Green Building Council, the review also aims to ensure that “local authorities cannot layer on any additional rules and standards through the planning system, beyond those left at the end of the review”.
The industry has responded with concerns about safety, the clarity of the environment for investors and fears about the potential for cowboy builders to enter an unregulated market.
UK-GBC called the review a “no-holds-barred, wide-ranging shake-up” and said the review would likely result in “poorer quality homes built to lower environment and social standards”.
The body’s CEO Paul King said the review “has gone from being a sensible look at rationalising and updating some voluntary standards for housebuilding to a full blown de-regulation frenzy”.
He warned that the move “creates a fog of uncertainty, and is much more likely to act as a brake on housing delivery than an accelerator”.
“Housebuilders have not been calling for a bonfire of building regulations; what they really need is mortgage finance and institutional investment to get the industry moving and policy clarity to deliver the homes we urgently need,” he said.
Conservative MP Mark Pawsey, who sits on the Communities and Local Government select committee, told CN there was some “fairly emotive language” by way of reaction, which “I don’t think is helpful”.
Mr Pawsey said it was “entirely right that government should regularly look at levels of deregulation”, adding that “nobody wants to see standards go backwards, but I think sometimes regulations go too far”.
“It’s entirely right that homes are built with disabled access where necessary – but is it necessary to build every home to that standard?” he said.
“We need to keep a constant review on these things, as situations change over time.”
Federation of Master Builders CEO Brian Berry told CN he found the reports of sweeping reforms “rather alarming” and warned against opening the doors to cowboy builders.
Mr Berry added that further uncertainty may present a danger.
“The problem is not the building regulations themselves – it’s been updating the regulations on a far too regular basis, which has meant that smaller firms have not been able to keep up,” he said.
“It takes time for builders to get up to date and then to upskill.
“This is not the solution; the solution is really in terms of greater investment.
“There’s an inherent contradiction in the government between those who want to promote economic growth and those who are arguing for sustainability.”
WSP sustainability director David Bownass said: “The government seems to have made the misplaced assumption that building regulations represent ‘red tape’.
“The majority actually serve to ensure a safe, warm, durable home for the general public who will invest a significant part of their working life paying them off.
“Having already watered down the zero-carbon homes regulations and the future Part L 2013 carbon emissions targets for domestic buildings earlier this year, the public could be forgiven for wondering whether this is really the ‘greenest government ever’.”