Building Control: Frequently Asked Questions

Answers and guidance for some of the frequently asked questions regarding Building Control

What is the difference between Planning and Building Control?

Planning Control and Building Control are two entirely separate pieces of building law, and require separate applications.

The Planning Act deals with the correct use of the land, the appearance of the proposed building and the effect that the development will have on the general environment and neighbouring properties.

Building Regulations deal with the way that the building is constructed e.g. structural stability, fire resistance, weather resistance etc.

Works that require Building Regulation approval include:-

• Erecting or re-erecting a building or part of a building
• Extending a building
• Carrying out external or internal alterations to a building that affect structural, fire safety and disabled provisions
• Converting a roof space
• Recovering roofs or re-clad buildings with different materials
• Carrying out underpinning
• Changing the use of a building or part of a building
• Replacing windows and doors
• Inserting cavity insulation
• Installing unvented hot water systems

Provision, extension or alteration of:-

• Washing and sanitary facilities and fittings
• Sanitary pipework
• Foul and rainwater drainage
• Sewage treatment plants and hearths
• Fuel storage installations
• Hot water storage and controls
• Electrical installations to dwellings

The above is for guidance and is not an exhaustive list. Further advice should also be sought from the Building Control team.

How does the building control system work?

Building control generally operates as a two-stage process, involving the planning stage and the inspection stage.

The first stage (known as the plan stage) involves the applicant submitting a Building Regulation application either in the form of a Building Notice or a Full Plans application. The application will be examined by a Building Control Surveyor to ensure that the submitted information fully complies with the requirements of the Building Regulations.

The second stage (inspection stage) starts when work commences on site. Following notification by the client or their builder, a series of site inspection visits are made to check that the works on site are also carried out in compliance with the Building Regulations.

What are Building Regulations?

Building Regulations impose a set of minimum standards on people carrying out certain specified works in or about buildings. They are primarily for the purposes of public health and safety, the conservation of fuel and power and the access and use of buildings.

Building Control ensures, through the checking of plans and the inspection of work, that these requirements are met.

What are the Building Regulations options?

There are four different Building Regulations options - Full Plans, Building Notice, Regularisation and Reversion

Full Plans

This option is suitable for all types of proposed work. It involves you submitting two copies of plans and information in sufficient detail to show that the construction will comply with the Building Regulations.

More information on Full Plans
Building Notice

This option notifies us that you intend to carry out work.

If the work involves the erection or extension of a building, plans of the site, location of the proposal and details of any drainage work are required on submission.

More information on Building Notice
Regularisation

This option allows the owner of a building to apply for retrospective Building Regulation approval for illegal building work. It cannot be used for any work that was carried out before 11 November 1985.

More information on Regularisation
Reversion

This option is available, to the owner of a building, following the withdrawal of an Approved Inspector. The procedure is similar to the Regularisation option.

Who needs to apply for Building Regulations?

Building Regulations apply to any work that is classed as building work.

This includes the following:-

New buildings or extensions
Installing, extending or altering services or fittings

This includes:

• Replacement windows
• Foul and storm water drainage
• Sanitary equipment (toilets, washing facilities etc.)
• Unvented hot water systems
• Heating appliances
• Electrical installations in or attached to a dwelling
• Competent Persons Schemes may be used for some work involving services or fittings.
• Inserting cavity wall insulation
• Underpinning

Alterations affecting stability, fire safety or access and use requirements

This includes:

• Removal of all or part of a load bearing wall.
• Converting a loft into a room
• Converting a garage into a room
• Re-tiling a roof if the tiles are heavier or lighter than those taken off
• Replacement ground floors
• The installation of a shop front

Changing the use of all or part of a building to any of the following:

• A dwelling or flat or a building with an increased or decreased number of dwellings or flats
• A hotel or boarding house, an institution, a public building or a shop
• A building which is no longer in one of the exempt building categories
• A building which contains rooms for residential purposes or has an increased or decreased number of rooms for residential purposes

Renovating or replacing thermal elements

This includes:
• Cladding, rendering, re-rendering or re-plastering external walls
• Re-tiling or re-felting a roof
• Re-boarding timber ground floors

Changing the energy status of a building

This includes:

• Changing the internal environment in a building such as lighting, heating or cooling

What are the exemptions?

Building Regulations are drafted to protect health and safety. In an attempt to reduce the legislative burden for small buildings where there is considered to be no risk to health and safety, some buildings are exempt from the requirements of Building Regulations.

Exempt Buildings

Extensions to Buildings

The extension of a building at ground floor level with a floor area which does not exceed 30m2 by the addition of:

• Conservatory - (75% of the roof and 50% of the external walls are glazed with transparent materials and any doors between the existing dwelling and the new conservatory being maintained).
• Porch - (providing a covered approach to the entrance to a dwelling and any doors between the existing dwelling and porch being maintained).
• Covered yard or covered way.
• Car port open on at least two sides.

* Conservatories or porches are exempt only if the glazing they contain complies with Part K of the Building Regulations (see advisory leaflet on safety glazing).

Small Detached Buildings

• Single storey building, with a floor area which does not exceed 15m2, which contains no sleeping accommodation, constructed of any material.
• Single storey building with a floor area which does not exceed 30m2, containing no sleeping accommodation, and constructed substantially of non-combustible material, or sited at least 1m from the boundary of its curtilage.
• Nuclear shelters under 30m2 floor area. Excavation for shelter not to be nearer to other buildings than the depth of the excavation plus 1m.

Ancillary Buildings

• Builders huts containing no sleeping accommodation.
• Estate sales buildings.
• Buildings other than dwellings or offices used in connection with a mine or quarry.

Greenhouses and Agricultural Buildings

• Greenhouses are only exempt providing they are not used for retailing, packing or exhibiting. Greenhouses used as a garden centre shop are not exempt.
• Agricultural buildings and buildings principally for keeping animals are exempt if they are not used as a dwelling, are at least one and a half times their height from any building where there is sleeping accommodation and have a fire exit not more than 30m from any point in a building.

Temporary Buildings

• Those which remain for less than 28 days.

Building Not Frequented by People

• These are detached buildings into which persons do not normally go or only intermittently to inspect plant and machinery.
• The exemption only applies if the building is sited at least one and a half times its height, either from the boundary or from the point on a building into which people normally go.

Building Controlled Under Other Legislation

• Buildings subject to the Explosives Acts.
• Buildings other than houses or offices erected on a site licensed under the Nuclear Installations Act.
• Buildings included in the Schedule to Section 1 of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act.

When can I start work?

Once you have given a Building Notice or submitted a Full Plans application, you can start work at any time, though you must give the Local Authority a "Notice of Commencement" two days before doing so. However, if you start work before you receive a decision on your Full Plans application you may not be able to seek a "determination" from the Secretary of State if there is a dispute.

Building Regulation 16 gives full details of the provision of notices.

Notes:

1. It is your responsibility to contact the Building Control Surveyor at each of the stages as detailed when the work is ready for inspection. You may either do this yourself or request your builder/agent to do it on your behalf.

2. Our Building Control Service can easily be contacted for site inspections in any one of the following ways:
a) By using pre-printed notification cards provided with each Building Regulations Approval Notice/Building Notice acceptance letter.
b) Via our administration team during office hours.
c) By direct dial telephone to the Building Control Surveyor dealing with your project.

3. Please note: The time periods shown below are the legal requirements. We will, wherever possible, look to better these where it will assist our customers and generally same day visits can be accommodated.

A flow diagram detailing when you can start work during the Building Control process

How are Building Regulations enforced?

The local authority has a general duty to enforce the Building Regulations in its area and will do so by informal means wherever possible.

Building Regulations can be contravened by not following the building control procedures set out for handling your building work and also by carrying out building work which does not comply with the technical requirements contained in the Building Regulations. This will come to light during the inspections carried out by the building control service.

Where an approved inspector is providing the building control service, the responsibility for checking that the Regulations are complied with will lie with that inspector. They will mainly do this by advising you, however, they do not have enforcement powers. In a situation where they consider your building work does not comply with the Regulations they will not issue you with a final certificate and will cancel the initial notice by notifying your local authority. If no other approved inspector takes on the work, the building control service will automatically be taken on by your local authority. From this point on your local authority will also have enforcement powers to require you to alter your work, if they consider this necessary.

If a person carrying out building work contravenes the Building Regulations, the local authority or another person may decide to take them to the magistrates' court where they could be fined up to £5,000 for the contravention, and up to £50 for each day the contravention continues after conviction.

This action (under section 35 of the Building Act 1984) will usually be taken against the builder or main contractor and proceedings should be taken within six months of the offence. Alternatively, or in addition, the local authority may (under section 36 of the Act) serve an enforcement notice on the owner requiring them to alter or remove work which contravenes the regulations. If the owner does not comply with the notice the local authority has the power to undertake the work itself and recover the costs from the owner.

You can't be served with a section 36 enforcement notice more than 12 months after the date of completion of the building work, although this does not affect a local authority's (or any other person's) right to apply to the courts for an injunction for the same purpose. A local authority also can't take enforcement action under sections 35 and 36 if the work which you have carried out is in accordance with your plans which the authority approved or failed to reject within the statutory time of five weeks (or two months with your agreement) from deposit of the plans.

What happens if you disagree with a local authority's enforcement notice?

Normally our enforcement notice will give you 28 days to rectify the building work. If you wish to contest the notice on the grounds that you believe your building work does comply with the Building Regulations, you can advise us that you would like to commission a written report from a suitably qualified person about the compliance of your work with a view to persuading us to withdraw the notice. In this event the 28 day period to rectify the building work is extended to 70 days.

Alternatively, you can appeal against the notice in the magistrates' court and demonstrate that your building work complies. This option can be used either as an alternative to the above, or if proceedings under that option have been unsuccessful. You should make your appeal within 28 days of receiving the notice or within 70 days if you have used above option first.

If you are successful with either option, we may have to pay your costs.

If on the other hand you believe that your work can't be expected to comply with one or more of the requirements in the Building Regulations because they are too difficult or inapplicable, you do have the right to apply to us for a relaxation or dispensation of the requirement(s) in question to allow your completed building work to be considered to have achieved compliance.

Your application should be made within 28 days of receiving the enforcement notice from us. If we refuse your application you have a right of appeal to the Department for Communities and Local Government against that refusal, providing you do so within one month of that decision.