Starting a new building project can be stressful, especially if you’ve never completed one before. On top of hiring an architect, shopping around for builders, and sourcing material, you have a veritable smorgasbord of rules, regulations, and permissions to navigate to make sure you adhere to both government and council rules.
If you are based in Oxford or the Oxfordshire region, then you will not only have to ensure your project meets government and environmental guidance but that it stays the right side of local regulations set out by the Oxford City Council (details can be found here).
Well, worry no more, because we are here to help you out. In this article we will discuss some of the rules governing building projects, specifically Building Control Consent, and explain what it is, how it differs from other regulations, as well as giving you an overview of the process for acquiring it. Let’s get started.
What is Building Regulation Approval and how is it different from Planning Permission?
Many homeowners, property developers, and business owners fail to understand that planning permission and building regulations approval (also known as Building Control Consent) are different. But while similar, they are not the same and failure to understand this can lead to catastrophic errors that could turn your dream project into a nightmare.
Most building projects will require you to apply for both to ensure your building work is safe and legal. The process of doing so, however, is different in each case. Let’s have a look at planning permission and Building Control Consent in turn and discuss what they are.
Planning permission approval
Planning permission is the process (nearly) all prospective building work must go through to assess whether it meets the standards and policies at both a local and national level. If planning permission is required, then it must be applied for before work can begin.
Most larger building projects require some form of planning permission and all new-builds, repurposing of properties, and larger extensions will require it (although some smaller extension and renovation work may not). Planning permission legislation is in place to ensure that no unlawful developments occur.
When applying for planning permission, the local authority (in the case of Oxford, the Oxford City Council) will assess the suitability of the proposed development. They will judge it against local and national regulations as well as looking at the environmental impact of the project. Neighbours and other interested bodies will have the opportunity to object to the planned work if they feel it will damage or hinder their own properties and needs. Details of Oxford planning permission rules can be found here.
Planning permission is purely focussed on the impact of the build as a whole and whether it should go ahead. It does not look at the safety and legality of the work undertaken. That’s where Building Control Consent (building regulations) comes in.
Building Control Consent (Building Regulations)
Building regulations are a set of rules that originate at both a national and regional level. Most are set out in the Building Act 1984, but further amendments, alterations, and additions have been added since by both government and local authorities. The most up to date version can be found in the Building Regulations 2010 rules (a copy of which can be found on the governments legislation.gov.uk website).
The Building Control Consent rules set out the standards for the design, materials, and construction of building work to ensure that properties are both safe and legal. Think about building regulations as the Health and Safety rules for building work.
All work undertaken on a property must adhere to building regulations. Work will be inspected by the authorities and if it fails to meet the required standards, you may be asked to make alterations or remove work altogether.
When is Building Control Consent required?
Nearly all building work whether it be a new build, extension, alteration, or change of use will need to get building regulations approval from the local authorities. Here is a list of the type of work that require Building Control Consent:
- All extension work no matter how big or small
- Loft conversions
- Garage conversions
- Cavity wall installations
- Change of use of a property (for example, from business use to a residential dwelling)
- Underpinning of a property to reinforce the foundations
- Any work on the drains of a property
- Any demolishing work that may impact on the structure of the property
- The installation of staircases
As you can see, the list of work requiring Building Control Consent is huge. If you are unsure whether your project falls under the building regulation rules, then we suggest you contact your local authority before getting started. For the Oxford area, this would be the Oxford council (contact details here). Any work that fails to get Building Control Consent may need to be changed to meet regulations or potentially demolished. You have been warned.
Are there different types of Building Regulations like there is with Planning Permissions?
While adherence to building regulations is not flexible, there are several different application types to be aware of. For details of how to apply for building regulations in Oxford or to make an application, you can head over to the Oxford City Council website here.
If you want your project plans to be checked and approved before you start work, then you can apply for something called a Full Plan. This can help you avoid costly errors down the line and ensure your plans are fully up to speed with the constantly changing building regulation rules.
To make a Full Plan application you need to fill in the correct form and send it to the applicable local authority department along with detailed plans and information regarding your project. Here is a list of everything you need to include with the application:
- Two copies of the completed Full Plans application form. These must be signed by the project manager.
- Two sets of the scaled plans, sections, and elevations of the proposed work.
- A site location plan and block plan for the proposed work.
- A vertical section through the building showing detailed construction details.
- A detailed specification for the proposed work.
- The relevant fee.
- An estimate of the cost of the development.
- Details of the drainage arrangements of the building or extension work.
Once received, your local authority will check the plans and information received and consult any authorities that may have an interest in the work.
If your plans are accepted and are in line with building regulation rules, you will receive approval from the local authority and work can begin. If the local authority feels that the building project is in breach of building regulations, they may reject your application or ask for changes to be made. You may also receive conditional approval with modifications specified for the work. These modifications must be implemented, and the local authority may ask for new plans to be deposited with them showing that this has been done. Be aware that in any case you may still be subject to an inspection of the site and work at any time during or after completion to ensure regulations have not been breached.
If you feel confident that your building project adheres to building regulations (and that your builder has a good grasp of what he needs to do to stay the right side of the authorities) then you can apply for something called a Building Notice. A Building Notice application does not require any of the detailed plans of a Full Plan and work can begin 48 hours after your notice has been sent to the local authority.
The process of submitting a Building Notice is far quicker and easier than a Full Plan but, as details of your project are not inspected in any detail, it is most suited to uncomplicated or small building projects.
It’s important to remember that some types of work are excluded from Building Notice applications, including:
- Work that is undertaken near to or on top of rainwater or foul drains. If you are unsure if your project is over a drain, then it might be prudent to check the publicly available sewer maps held by your local authority.
- New buildings whose frontage is on a private street.
A Building Notice is valid for three years from the date it was submitted to the local authority. All work must be completed within this timescale. Again, it is important to note that you may still be subject to an inspection of the site at any time during or after completion to ensure regulations have not been breached.
Retrospective regularisation applications
Sometimes work can be started (or finished) without the required Building Control Consent. If this is the case, a retrospective application will need to be made using a Regularisation form.
Retrospective consent may sometimes have to be sought when you purchase a new property as the former owner may have neglected to acquire the required permissions. Under government rules, any work can be retrospectively regularised so long as it was carried out after the 11th of November 1985.
If you do need to seek retrospective regularisation, be aware that work is likely to be inspected and if found to be in breach of the building regulation rules, may need to be amended, rectified, or even removed.
Our advice is to contact your local authority building control team before making an application to discuss your individual circumstances (Oxford City Council contact details can be found here).
What factors are looked at in Building Regulations Approval?
The building regulation rules cover a wide variety of health and safety issues and can be quite complicated. In this section, we will look at some of the main areas they cover. For full details of what’s included head over to the Government’s website here.
The building regulation rules require buildings to be designed, constructed, extended, or altered so they are structurally safe. They also require that buildings do not impair the structural stability of buildings around them.
Building regulations set the standards for all buildings giving simple rules for design, materials, and construction. It includes information on the required structure of things like walls and roofs and dictates minimum strengths for any materials used.
The building regulation rules dictate all necessary precautionary measures required to keep a building, its occupants, firefighters, and those in the building’s vicinity safe from fire. Within the requirements is guidance on things like fire detection systems, flammability of building materials, the building of fire escapes (if necessary), ways to prevent a fire from spreading, access requirements for firefighters, and the need to have firefighting equipment in place.
Weather and water tightness
The building regulations set out rules for keeping a property both weather and watertight. These include recommendations on foundation work, sub-soil drainage, roof design, as well as measures that deal with contaminated land and those subject to hazardous or dangerous substances.
Within the building regulation rules, you will find a section that deals with the requirements for sound insulation between buildings. All buildings must implement a way to restrict sound travelling between properties. These rules are most pertinent when subdividing a property into smaller dwellings where sound can travel easier.
The building regulation rules include standards for the ventilation of a property. This section also includes details on how to ensure good air quality and prevent condensation.
Drainage and waste disposal
The building regulations require that adequate drainage is provided and that there is sufficient capacity in waste (sewage) removal. Things covered in this area include sanitary pipework, rainwater drainage, foul drainage, wastewater treatment, and cesspools.
Heat and heating appliances
The building regulations include rules that cover the installation and construction of boilers, flues, chimneys, hearths, and fuel storage devices.
Electrical equipment and safety
The building regulations cover the design, installation, inspection and periodic testing of electrical equipment to ensure safety and to prevent injury and fires
Undertaking a building project can be a minefield of red tape. But with a little help from our guide, getting Building Control Consent in the Oxford area should be a synch.
For more useful guides on property development in the Oxford and Oxfordshire regions, take a look around our website.