As set out in a ministerial statement of 25 March 2015, the government has created a new approach for setting technical housing standards in order to rationalise the many differing existing standards and reduce red tape associated with planning and house building.
The Code for Sustainable Homes has now been withdrawn (aside from the management of legacy cases) and has been replaced by new national technical standards which comprise new additional optional Building Regulations regarding water and access as well as a new national space standard (this is in addition to the existing mandatory Building Regulations). These additional options (which are comparable with the requirements for the former Code for Sustainable Homes Level 4) can be required by a planning permission.
For example, Requirement G2 of the Building Regulations concerns water efficiency. The current Regulations state that the potential water consumption by occupants of a new dwelling must not exceed 125 litres per person per day. This Regulation remains in place but there is now also an optional higher standard which states that the potential water consumption by occupants of a new dwelling must not exceed 110 litres per person per day. This higher standard may be imposed by planning condition.
With regard to access, for Requirement M4 of the Building Regulations (sanitary conveniences in dwellings) there are now three categories; M4(1), M4(2) and M4(3). M4(1) is the lowest level of standard and represents the mandatory requirements. Levels M4(2) and M4(3) represent increasingly higher levels of standards and one of these may be imposed by planning condition.
The exact details of the requirements are relatively extensive, however, an architect will be able to advise you during the detailed scheme design process as to which level your proposal will achieve.
This new approach will have immediate and future effects on policy making and decision taking as indicated below.
From now on new Local Plans, Neighbourhood Plans, supplementary planning documents and local validation lists should not include any additional local technical standards or requirements relating to the construction, internal layout or performance of new dwellings. This includes any policy requiring any level of the Code for Sustainable Homes to be achieved by new development as the government has now withdrawn the code, aside from the management of legacy cases.
Existing policies on technical housing standards or requirements should be considered and updated as appropriate. Local validation requirements should also be checked to ensure they do not request information that is no longer necessary.
The optional new national technical standards should be required only through new Local Plan policies (not Neighbourhood Plans). They should only be included if they address a clearly evidenced need and where their impact on viability has been considered.
Decision Making from 26 March 2015 until 30 September 2015
Planning permissions should not require compliance with any technical housing standards except where Local Planning Authorities have existing policies on access, internal space, or water efficiency (even if these conflict with the new national technical standards).
Where any such existing policy refers to the Code for Sustainable Homes, LPAs may continue to apply requirements for standards equivalent to the new national technical standard.
Decision Making from 1 October 2015
Existing Local Plan, Neighbourhood Plan, and supplementary planning document policies relating to water efficiency, access and internal space should be interpreted by reference to the nearest equivalent new national technical standard. Compliance with the new national technical standards should only be required where there is a relevant current Local Plan policy.
Exception - Energy
For the specific issue of energy performance, LPAs will continue to be able to set and apply policies in their Local Plans requiring energy performance standards that exceed the requirements of Building Regulations until the commencement of amendments to the Planning and Energy Act 2008 in the Deregulation Bill 2015.
This is expected to happen alongside the introduction of zero carbon homes policy in late 2016. The government has stated that, from then, the energy performance requirements in Building Regulations will be set at a level equivalent to the former Code for Sustainable Homes Level 4. Until the amendment is commenced, it is expected that LPAs will take this statement of the government’s intention into account in applying existing energy policies and that they will not set conditions with requirements above a Code level 4 equivalent.