We were at a local business event this month where we were asked to answer some popular questions relating to building control. Here are our answers!
What is the difference between planning and building control?
Building Control has a remit to enforce the Building Regulations 2010. These look to ensure that new buildings and certain alterations to existing buildings meet national standards in terms of health and safety, sustainability, energy efficiency, accessibility, and security. Performance requirements are underpinned by a series of Approved Documents that give comprehensive guidance on methods of compliance.
Building Control also takes a responsibility to deal with dangerous structures and buildings and to control demolition.
When is the best time to seek advice?
Advice from Building Control on compliance issues is best sought when the building owner is reasonably sure that the scheme will get planning approval. (Assuming this is needed). Hertfordshire Building Control can give free advice early on in the design stages. Before an application is even submitted! This can be helpful in foreseeing any issues that have technical feasibility or cost implications before committing to a design.
Is advice given free of charge?
Hertfordshire Building Control undertake the building control function for 8 of the 10 Hertfordshire Councils. Like most local authorities we offer free advice to customers who intend to make an application to us in due course.
For customers with disabilities, if the work is related to supporting them to remain in their home, it is often the case that Building Control services are provided free of charge.
What are the risks of using approved inspectors to provide your building control services?
Building Control is unusual in being a regulatory function that can currently be undertaken by private sector companies (Approved Inspectors) as well as Local Councils. This means that an applicant can select a public or private sector service provider to oversee building regulations compliance on their project. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for that choice to be made or influenced by builders who may have different ideas to an owner on what constitutes ‘good’ service.
My advice would be to find out what level of service you can expect from the provider for the fees that you will be paying. Ask about the experience and qualifications of their Surveyors and how many site inspections will be carried out to check that the work in progress is to a good standard. Can they guarantee to make a same-day inspection when notified by 10:00 am? For anything but minor work I would look for a provider to carry out a detailed assessment of the design drawings and give written confirmation that they are compliant; something that is standard procedure with a full plans application to a Local Authority. This gives reassurance that building to approved plans and reasonable standards of workmanship, you shouldn’t get any nasty surprises about compliance as the work progresses.
Local Authorities do not work under the same commercial pressures that influence Approved Inspectors. Local Authorities Building Control’s remit above all else is to ensure that the interests of the customer are protected.
Who is responsible for an unstable building that is next to a road?
The owner of a building is responsible for its condition. If the Local Authority is made aware that a building or structure is in such a condition as to pose a hazard to the health and safety of the public then it can take action to make it safe under powers contained in The Building Act 1984. In serious cases, this can be immediate using emergency powers in section 78 and the owner is liable for costs incurred. In this county, Hertfordshire Building Control provides a 24/7 service to deal with dangerous structures in 8 of the 10 local authority areas.
The highways authority i.e. Herts County Council also has responsibilities and powers to deal with dangerous structures adjacent to roads. It can take action under Section 165 of the Highways Act if there is an unfenced or inadequately fenced source of danger to persons using the street on land adjacent to it. Under section 167 of the Act, it can take action if it’s a retaining wall more than 1.35m high and within 3.6m of a street.