Planning with PKS: Building Control Explained
In the next instalment of our UK Planning series, PKS is exploring building regulations, the minimum standards for design, construction, and alterations to virtually every building, as detailed in the Building Regulations Act 2010.
How is Building Control different from Planning Permission?
While Planning Permission, as we have seen in our previous article, assesses whether a new development or property extension fits in with the policies laid out in a Local or Neighbourhood Plan. Building Control is more closely related to the structural aspects of construction and development. When you apply for Planning Permission, you are seeking approval to carry out your development, whereas Building Control (Building Regulations approval) involves checking the details of the project for compliance with standards of construction, as detailed in the Building Regulations Act 2010.
Not all projects need both Planning Permission and Building Regulations approval, and some may need neither or both. Building Control is definitely required for any works that fall in line with Building Regulation Approved Documents, and would include works on the following:
• New buildings, except agricultural ones
• Garages, other than detached ones that are under 15m squared, or under 30m squared and either at least 1 metre from a boundary or built from non-combustible materials
• Garage conversions and extensions to buildings
• Loft conversions, roof extensions, balconies, and roof terraces
• Basement extensions
• Barn conversions
• Subdivision of a dwelling into flats, and vice versa
• Works to load-bearing walls
• Works to non-load-bearing walls if they separate a room from a hall, staircase, or landing
Building Regulations approval may also be required if a project involves:
• Replacing fuse boxes and connected electrics
• Installing a bathroom that will involve plumbing
• Changing electrics near a bath or shower
• Installing a fixed air-conditioning system
• Replacing windows and doors
• Replacing roof coverings on pitched and flat roofs
• Installing or replacing a heating system
• Adding extra radiators to a heating system
It is not required for most repairs, replacements, and maintenance work, as long as it is like for like, in the case of baths, toilets, sinks and basins. In some cases regarding gas, heating and electrical work, approval will be sorted out by an engineer. Boundary or garden walls, fences and gates also do not require Building Regulations approval.
How do I obtain Building Regulations approval?
There are two ways of getting a Building Regulations approval. Firstly, through your local council / authority’s Building Control Body (BCB). Secondly, through a private Approved Inspector. Your architect, surveyor or engineer is free to submit plans to either of these two entities. Since the local council has the final duty to check that building works comply with Building Regulations. the Approved Inspector must submit an “Initial Notice” to the local authority prior to construction starting, which usually take up to 5 working days to be decided upon.
What types of application are there?
Either a “Full Plans” or “Building Notice” application can be submitted.
A “Full Plans” application will consist of all the relevant Building Regulations plans, drawings, and specification for construction, and is submitted prior to building works starting. They can take between 5 weeks and 2 months to be approved, depending on whether both parties comply. This will be valid for three years from approval, and if the application lapses before the end of construction, you must reapply, as Building Regulations may have changed in that time.
A “Building Notice” is only recommended for smaller domestic projects. While it is cheaper and work can start 2 days after the Notice is submitted to the BCB, it does not give the guarantee of formal approval that the Full Plans does, which could leave you vulnerable to fines and having to redo works if it is retrospectively decided they do not meet regulations.
The BCB will make regular inspections throughout the construction process to ensure all the Building Regulations are being met. Once construction is completed, and all fees have been paid, a Completion Certificate is awarded within 5 days. This is an important document to obtain when the development is complete, as failure to do so could result in prosecution and having to dismantle and demolish works.
What does a full Building Control submission require?
Building Regulations drawings must be completed by your architect or surveyor, as well as structural drawings from an engineer, to prove the building will be safely constructed. It is important to use an architect or service that has good knowledge of the regulations and the approved documents, but these drawings are different to the tender and construction drawings used by building contractors and should not be seen as sufficient for that purpose.
A full set of Building Control plan drawings should include, as a minimum:
• Site location plan
• Floor plans
• Elevations and vertical sections
• Calculations detailing structural integrity, thermal performance, and other regulatory requirements
• Specification notes, detailing materials and construction methods proposed to be used on each element (foundations, walls, floors etc.)
The specific regulatory detail that must be mentioned changes depending on the project. As a minimum, most will require detail on structure, fire safety, sound insulation, ventilation, drainage, electrical and mechanical design.
Some specific requirements include:
• Means of escape – relevant for open-plan conversions and kitchen extensions
• Minimum ceiling height – relevant for loft extensions with fitted bathrooms (currently 2.2m)
• Energy information and performance – relevant for converting a house into flats
• Greater detail on insulation and ventilation capability – relevant for new builds and flat conversion
How much does a Building Control approval cost?
There is no one standard price structure for this operation and will ultimately depend on the specific BCB and the costs of the project. As a guide, the London Borough of Lambeth charges £850 for a Full Plans or Building Notice application for a single new-build house, and £795 for an extension (between 20 and 60m squared). These costs cover both checking your plans and inspecting the build.
Building Regulations drawings can range between £1000 and £15,000 depending on the architect and the scope of the development, and as much as 3% of construction cost for new build developments.
For more information on whether your project needs Building Control approval, and to find out about what the Building Regulations Act 2010 covers, visit gov.uk.
PKS provide specialist services in project development and monitoring, including in cases where Building Control requires approval. Contact us here to answer your queries.
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