Housing minister Grant Shapps said that proposals for new Core Standards for development funded by, or on land owned by, the Homes & Communities Agency could have cost developers an average £8,000 per home. Instead it has been decided that the national building standards are sufficient, and it is an unfair and unnecessary expense to impose additional building standards for public build.
Ministers believe that many building standards and codes that are attached to planning permissions go too far and can even be contradictory. Shapps pledged to end what he called ‘the cocktail' of local building standards and end assessment regimes that accompany them. He invited the industry to help develop a new system for local standards so new developments meet local needs without placing an unnecessary strain on developers.
The proposal is for housebuilders and councils will work together to develop a simple and transparent 'menu' of costed standards that are easier for builders to meet. This is designed to make it easier for companies to build new developments where they are wanted, and follows the government's New Homes Bonus announcement, where councils will get more funding if they build more affordable homes.
Speaking to the National House Building Council, Shapps said that this was "the first step of many towards reducing the unnecessary cost and hassle that the people who build our homes are forced to endure. Last year, housebuilding slumped to the lowest level in peacetime since 1924. We were in the midst of a recession, but the situation was made much worse by regional targets that forced developers into direct conflict with local communities, and compounded by the alphabet soup of regulations and red tape that housebuilders have to navigate.
"We are on the side of families who want more good quality homes available - that's why we're scrapping expensive new standards for homes built with Government cash and on public land. There's no good reason why homes built on public land should be built any differently to those of high quality on private land. So I'm getting rid of this unnecessary requirement, and I'll be working hard to make sure that, in the long run, the standards that apply to private and public housing are exactly the same.
"I'm also calling time on the cocktail of local building standards that developers have to meet, some of which are directly contradictory. House builders are the experts at building homes, so I'm inviting them to be in charge of developing a new framework for local building standards - one which enables communities to get the high quality homes they demand, but without causing unnecessary costs and delays for developers."
House Builders Federation executive chairman Stewart Basely welcomed the news. He said: "Having campaigned for a reduction in the 'regulatory burden on new homes' for many years it's great that the government has recognised the impact the cost of excessive regulation has on the supply of the homes the country desperately needs. We look forward to working with local and national government to create a simpler, less costly system which will go a long way to helping solve our housing crisis."
National House Building Council chief executive Imtiaz Farookhi also supports the move. He said: "I'm delighted that the Minister has chosen to announce details of this critical policy area at our annual lunch later today and welcome the invitation to play a central role in developing the policy process. We look forward to making a positive contribution working with government and others to deliver a successful policy for the industry and new home owners."
With proposals for new Core Standards now not being implemented, the HCA will continue to use existing standards for the time being, but the longer term plan is to make the standards that apply to public housing the same as those that apply to private housing. As a start to this process, all centrally-imposed standards for houses built on surplus central government land will be removed, in a move designed to provide a boost to home builders.
Work now begins on a new Local Standards Framework that will be developed and maintained by industry and councils. It will be implemented through the National Planning Policy Framework, which will be introduced by April 2012.
Shapps also confirmed that the recent review of Building Regulations will be published shortly, and will keep the regulations as the mechanism to set national minimum standards.