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Government housing review won't be radical, says housebuilders' body

A lobby group for smaller housebuilders has downplayed the potential impact of a government review of housing construction standards.

House Builders Association strategic policy advisor Roger Humber told CN the review, launched yesterday, was unlikely to be as “radical and fundamental” as the government had claimed.

He did not believe the review would result in a major overhaul of building regulations as they had been consulted on two years ago. Instead he thought the review would concentrate on standards like the Code for Sustainable Homes, Lifetime Homes and local standards applied by individual councils and would only look at building regulations where they overlapped or conflicted with these other measures.

He said: “This is no more than the eventual out working of [the then housing minister Grant] Shapps’ suggestion of a couple of years ago that there be a rationalisation of standards where they overlap and where they are confusing. There is nothing very radical about it and I do not think anything very radical will come out of it.”

The focus of the review, set out in its terms of reference is to:

Conduct a radical and fundamental review of the entire framework of Building Regulations and voluntary housing standards;

Consider opportunities for rationalisation, simplification and improvement of the Building Regulations themselves;

Look at how the requirements stemming from Building Regulations and/or local and national standards interact, overlap or conflict with other significant regulatory regimes applied through the planning system;

Deliver a mechanism, legislative or otherwise to ensure that additional rules and standards are not added on, beyond those left at the end of the review.

The UK Green Building Council welcomed the amendment of the review’s terms to include the aim of enabling “quality and sustainable housing developments to be brought forward more easily” but warned against changes that would reduce the quality or sustainability of homes.

However UKGBC was concerned that uncertainty created during the review would slow housing delivery.

Chief executive, Paul King, said: “While we do believe that there is room for improvement in terms of rationalising the current range of voluntary standards, this must not be at the expense of delivering high quality, sustainable homes fit for the future.”

The UKGBC pointed out that the terms of the review had promised a “radical and fundamental review of the entire framework of Building Regulations and voluntary housing standards” which suggested a major overhaul of the rules.

A DCLG spokesman said the review panel will look primarily at housing standards other than building regulations, but will consider areas of overlap between the two. He said ministers wanted high safety, accessibility and sustainability standards to remain. Communities minister Don Foster said: “I want to see a simpler set of housing standards that people can easily understand and that free up developers and councils to get on with the job of building the high quality new homes we so badly to get more first time buyers and families onto the housing ladder.”

Review panels:

The review will be carried out by local housing standards review group and a smaller challenge panel.

The review group, chaired by DCLG director Jon Bright, will comprise representatives from Association of Chief Police Officers, Building Regulations Advisory Council, Building Research Establishment, Construction Products Association, Greater London Authority, Habinteg Housing Association, Home Builders Federation, Homes & Communities Agency, House Builders Association, Local Government Association, National House Builders Council, National Housing Federation, Planning Officers Society, Royal Institute for British Architects and UKGBC.

It will look at how local and national standards can be streamlined and interact with building regulations, a menu of costed, consistent standards for local authorities to use, a compliance regime which reduces the burden of compliance.

The challenge panel, made up of architect Andy Von Bradsky, building control expert David Clements, planner Paul Watson and developer Kirk Archibald, will critique the output of the review group, ensure rules are not added after the review and consider how building regulations and other standards overlap with other regulation.

The terms of reference said the challenge panel would have “free rein, unconstrained” to suggest deregulation that could make home building easier. The review will report in spring 2013.

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