Out-Law / Your Daily Need-To-Know

DCLG opens technical consultation on house building standards

Out-Law News | 15 Sep 2014 | 5:13 pm | 2 min. read

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) opened a consultation last week on a series of proposed changes to the existing system of housing standards, which seek to reduce and simplify the rules house builders must comply with.

According to a consultation document (33-page / 298 KB PDF) published on Friday, the DCLG intends to consolidate existing rules into a core of five standards, covering home security, space, accessibility, water efficiency and waste storage, which will be contained within an amended version of the Building Regulations.

The DCLG has proposed in the document to introduce a mandatory national security standard applicable to all new homes. The draft security standard (11-page / 97 KB PDF) would require doors and windows to be "designed and constructed in such a way that it adequately resists both unauthorised access from outside the building and unauthorised access from within the building to flats within the building".

The consultation document also proposes the introduction of a nationally described space standard (8-page / 394 KB PDF), for use by local authorities that decide to apply minimum space standards to new homes in their local plans. Requirements outlined under the draft standard, which would apply to all tenures, range from 37 square metres for a studio apartment with a shower room to 138 sq m for a three-storey, six-bedroom house for eight people. A minimum floor to ceiling height of 2.5 m has been proposed.

The document outlines a three-tier standard for the accessibility of homes. A mandatory minimum "Category 1" standard, requiring new homes to be "visitable" by those with additional needs has been set out. Two further optional requirements that impose higher levels of accessibility are also proposed. Councils will be able to choose to require homes to be "Category 2 accessible and adaptable" dwellings, or to demand that "Category 3 wheelchair user dwellings" are provided.

If a council chooses to require Category 3 homes, these would have to meet design criteria that allowed their "easy adaptation to incorporate full accessible bathrooms, kitchens and installation of a through floor lift at a later date".  However, councils in areas where "likely occupancy by wheelchair users is high" and which have allocated such housing in their local policies would be able to use planning conditions to require that homes were fully accessible without adaptation.

Under the proposed standards, local authorities in areas of need would also be able to add conditions to planning permissions requiring compliance with a new optional water efficiency requirement (5-page / 266 KB PDF).  In order to comply with the optional requirement, new homes would have to be designed so that their calculated water use was no more than 110 litres per person per day, rather than the usual daily limit of 125 litres.

The consultation document also includes minor amendments to existing guidance on the provision for waste storage in new homes. The changes include making it clearer that existing waste storage standards apply not only to newly constructed homes, but also where homes are created by the change of a building's use.

"The current system of housing standards creates a labyrinth of bureaucratic rules for housebuilders to try and navigate, often of little benefit and significant cost," said communities minister Stephen Williams in a statement. "We are now slashing this mass of unnecessary rules down to just five core standards saving housebuilders and councils £114 million a year whilst making new homes safer, more accessible to older and disabled people and more sustainable."

The consultation is open until 7 November and responses can be provided via a dedicated website.