Government’s revised policy on housing standards in consultation

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) have recently published (Sept 2014) the Housing Standards Review technical consultation document. The publication marks the next stage in the consultation process, by setting out the government’s revised policy on housing standards and seeking views on draft technical standards and other practical matters of implementation.

The new standards, which are intended to replace the current range of local and national housing standards, including the Code for Sustainable Homes, will see the introduction of range of optional, standard and mandatory Building Regulation requirements, as summarised below.

Optional Requirements: These are requirements set at a level above the basic minimum in the Building Regulations 2010, which can be applied by a planning authority in certain circumstances.

Access (BR Part M)
Introduction of two levels of optional requirements, which shall be broadly in line with and elaborate upon the current requirements for the Lifetime Homes Standards.

• Water (BR Part G)
An optional requirement for all new dwellings to achieve an estimated average water consumption of 110 litres per person per day.

Nationally described space standard: This is a standard which would be taken forward outside of the Building Regulations. In this case, the Government does not consider there is a need for statutory regulation, but does consider the need for a national standard to replace the myriad existing space standards used by local authorities in planning policy.

National Mandatory Requirements: These are requirements set as a basic minimum level in the Building Regulations, which will apply as a requirement nationally.

• Security (New BR Part Q)
This introduces a mandatory standard for security, based on the provisions of British Standard PAS 24.

• External waste storage (BR Part H)
This clarifies and reinforces existing planning guidance to make clearer the importance of good design of waste storage.
A key message the technical consultation document aims to ensure is clarity on the conditions under which the optional requirements and nationally described space standard can be applied.

In contrast to other Building Regulations requirements, as non-mandatory requirements, their use must be fully justified and tested for viability by local planning authorities for inclusion within planning policy. The overriding objectives being to ensure the application of requirements on a “need to have’ rather than “nice to have” basis.

Moving forwards, the Government intends to lay amendments to the Building Regulations 2010 in early 2015 (subject to Parliamentary approval), with the associated Approved Documents and the nationally described space standard published at the same time. The Regulations and Approved Documents will then come into force six months after the Regulations have been laid and the statement of policy is made, in Autumn 2015.

In the transitional period, from the date of the statement of policy and until the proposed changes come into force, existing local plan policies may still have effect, though in applying these policies, local authorities must have regard to the forthcoming changes. In the case of the Code for Sustainable Homes (CSH) however, a particular CSH level should not requested, and only the elements on energy efficiency and water efficiency should be applied.

The precise nature of the impact of the proposed changes is yet to become clear, however what does appear likely is a period of uncertainty for both developers and local planning authorities, as adjustment is made to a new planning landscape for housing development.

The results from the online consultation survey will be posted on the Housing Standards Review web page here