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Cowboys face tougher penalties under building control reforms

Contractors and building inspectors have welcomed the Government’s move to reform the building control system and clamp down on cowboy builders.

They said a bid to simplify and target building control measures would boost the efficiency of the building process and increase production.

The Future of Building Control consultation, announced by housing minister Caroline Flint last week, proposes a variety of methods to help deliver a more efficient process.

Speaking at the launch of the consultation, Mrs Flint said: “Home owners have the right to expect their homes to be built and renovated to minimum standards set out in building regulations.

“I want to make life difficult for the cowboy builders that are out there, while letting the high-quality majority of the industry get on with the job.”

Building control inspectors welcomed the move, claiming a revamp would improve the system and increase customer confidence.

Paul Timmins, chairman of industry body the Association of Consultant Approved Inspectors, said: “The system we have at the moment needs improving but there is nothing so fundamentally wrong that it needs to be abolished. Our system is the envy of the world.”

He called for the process where developers must notify the local authority when they are preparing to carry out certain stages of work to allow inspection from building control officers to be abandoned and replaced with individual inspection regimes.

He said: “Approved inspectors have always adopted a risk-based approach to site inspections, which means the builder gets an independent pair of eyes at the most critical times. Statutory notifications should be ditched.”

Methods to tackle rouge traders

  • The use of fixed penalty notices and stop notices.

  • Increased powers for local authorities to tackle botched building work.

  • A periodic review of all building regulations every three years.

  • Developing a simple guide for work on extensions and conversions.

  • Extending existing time limits for enforcement to two years.

Analysis: Building control review should be good for industry

By Paul Thompson

A sweeping review of the way the building control system works in this country should be welcomed by the industry. The Government, too, should be applauded for finally having the bottle to try and simplify what has become a deeply complicated procedure for the relatively straightforward process of building.

While moves to clamp down on cowboy builders and the introduction of on-the-spot fines for bad work will take the headlines, the real bonus for the industry is the proposed periodic review of the building regulations every three years.

Doubtless, many will argue that this will create reams of unnecessary paperwork, and they may well be right.

But if it helps avoid costly foul-ups as witnessed by the changes to Part L in 2006, keeping a few civil servants in clover could be a price worth paying.