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Our guide to Building Control and Building Regulations

06 January 2017

These systems exist to make sure that buildings are properly designed and safely constructed – but can be a bit confusing if you’re improving your home, writes surveyor Nicola Phipps.

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What is Building Control?

The Building Control system exists to make sure that buildings are properly designed and constructed so as to ensure health, safety, welfare and convenience of people using them. 

Building Control regulates the construction of buildings so that they meet the standards set out in the Building Regulations.

What are the Buildings Regulations?

The Building Regulations cover technical parts of building work which are described in detail in a series of ‘Approved Documents’, which are published in documents from A to Q. 

For example, Part A covers all structural elements of a building, and Part M covers use of buildings for disabled people. 

These documents are developed by the government and approved by Parliament and are updated regularly.

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When do I need to apply for Building Regulations approval?

Approval needs to be gained for construction work and extensions to buildings. 

You may also need to get permission for electrical work, replacing roofs, windows, heating systems, or if you are installing a bathroom, air conditioning system.

When don’t I need to apply for Building Regulations approval?

You do not need approval for repairs or maintenance work.

Types of applications

There are three types of application:

Full plans submission

This is a detailed application accompanied with technical plans and all construction details. 

Generally you would use this type of application for major works, such as a new house, extension or major structural alterations. 

You submit your form and plans and wait for Building Control to approve.

Building Notice submission

This is a simple application form (plans not required) for building works. 

Generally you would use this type of application for less extensive works such as replacement windows, replacement roof, or bathroom installation. 

You submit your form and can start work.

Regularisation application

Only used where unauthorised works have been carried out or where approval should have been sought. 

The purpose of this process is to regularise the unauthorised works and obtain a certificate.

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Who regulates and approves Building Regulations?

Your Local Authority manages and approves applications, inspects works in progress, and provides a certificate of compliance on completion of the work. 

There is a lot of information on your local authority’s  website all about Building Control, forms, guidance and fees.

What happens if I don’t get Buildings Regulations?

Without approval you won’t have the certificates of compliance you may need when you want to sell your home. The local authority can serve enforcement notices or you could be prosecuted.

Is there a fee?

Yes, there is a fee and it is dependent on the type and value of work. 

Your local authority will have guidance on their website about fees and how to pay them. 

If the work is for a disabled person then there is normally no charge.

Are planning permission and Buildings Regulations the same thing?

Planning permission and Building Regulations are not the same thing. 

Planning permission is more about what a building will look like, and Buildings Regulations are more about the design and construction of the building to ensure it is built properly and is safe to use.

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Where to go online

Your local authority (Local Authority Building Control)

Q & A

I am […]; what kind application do I need?

Building an extension

For major works like this you would normally submit a Full Plans Submission showing all the technical details on plans. 

Your builder or architect can undertake the submission on your behalf; you wouldn’t do this yourself unless you are an architect, surveyor or builder.

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Changing windows

Buildings Regulations covers replacement windows and doors to ensure thermal performance, safety and ventilation. If your window installer is registered with the relevant competent person scheme then the installer can install new fittings without having to apply for Buildings Regulations. 

When the work is complete the installer will provide you with a certificate showing that the work was done by a registered installer.

If the window installer is not registered then a Building Notice will be required.

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Conducting electrical works

If you are carrying out electrical work you must comply with the Buildings Regulations. 

Most electricians are registered with the relevant competent person scheme and they can carry out work without having to apply Buildings Regulations, as they will self-certify with compliance of the Buildings Regulations.

If the electrician or person undertaking the work is not registered then a Building Notice will be required. The types of work that is covered by Buildings Regulations is, for example, a new fuse box, or new circuits.

Most electrical repairs and maintenance do not require Buildings Regulations.

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Knocking down an internal structural wall

If the work is simple removal of a structural wall then a Building Notice will suffice, and your builder could submit an application on your behalf. 

If the structural wall forms part of more extensive works or a combination of other works then a Full Plans submission can be submitted, but a Building Notice can still be used.

Installing an additional bathroom (eg disabled wet room) or toilet (where one does not currently exist)

If a bathroom is being installed where there wasn’t one already the you need to apply Buildings Regulations to ensure there is adequate ventilation, drainage, and electrical installation. 

If the bathroom is for a disabled person then the installation will also have to comply with additional regulations with regards to use and access.

Next article: How to make your home more accessible  >>>

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.