New plans to make building homes to a high standard at a lower cost have been unveiled by the government.
Publishing the government’s response to its housing standards review, communities minister Stephen Williams said the move would remove confusion from the planning system.
Currently, house builders face a myriad of different standards to implement each time they build new homes in an area - with the standards imposed varying between areas, and often leading to duplication and even contradiction.
Mr Williams is concerned that the current system of housing standards is complicated and confusing and is ripe for reform.
"That’s why we’re planning to make the whole system easier to understand and follow, consolidating housing standards so that all the requirements are in one place. This will enable councils and developers to better work together to build high-quality, sustainable and secure homes in communities across the country.” He said.
The measures aim to reduce 100 standards to fewer than 10; bringing down the numbers of remaining pages of guidance from 1,000 to fewer than 100, saving councils and developers both time and money.
Housing standards that will be abolished include:
requirements for rainwater harvesting in places that don’t suffer from water shortages
a requirement for more than 1 phone line to be installed - regardless of need
a requirement for compost bins and secure sheds in gardens
The measures also include scrapping rules that require house builders to get the same work checked by a range of different organisations.
Currently, a builder may have to have the same work checked by the planning authority, a Code for Sustainable Homes Assessor, a building control organisation, the Homes and Communities Agency and independent standard assessors - under the new system technical requirements will be assessed by building control bodies alone.
Under the changes, the new system will include “optional building regulations”, which will only apply where it is right to do so, with councils deciding whether they apply to developments being built in their areas.
These could include:
water efficiency - where a different standard may be available for areas facing water shortages - potentially saving households £100 a year in bills
accessibility - where different standards may be needed for homes to be accessible for older people and wheelchair users - with optional building regulations that developers would need to abide by where it was applied, to avoid them facing a range of different measures in different areas.
The minister also confirmed that the government would develop a national space standard to be available to councils where there was a need and where this would not stop development. This would replace the variety of different space standards which are currently required by councils.
The government will also take forward development of a new standard for security in new homes, based on current industry best practice to be applied either nationally or on the basis of local need, and based on evidence of cost-effectiveness.
Currently, in addition to existing building regulations councils can also impose locally-set targets for energy efficiency and renewable energy - imposing extra cost on new homes and leading to confusion and variation across the country.
Instead, with a new zero carbon homes standard coming into force from 2016, building on strengthened energy efficiency requirements in building regulations in 2010 and 2013 national standards have been catching up and overtaking local targets. In the future energy efficiency standards will be set through national building regulations.