Housing standards: streamlining the system
New homes need to be high quality, accessible and sustainable. To achieve this, the government has created a new approach for the setting of technical standards for new housing. This rationalises the many differing existing standards into a simpler, streamlined system which will reduce burdens and help bring forward much needed new homes.
The new system will comprise new additional optional Building Regulations on water and access, and a new national space standard (hereafter referred to as “the new national technical standards”). This system complements the existing set of Building Regulations, which are mandatory.
To implement this new regime, this written ministerial statement sets out the government’s new national planning policy on the setting of technical standards for new dwellings. This statement should be taken into account in applying the National Planning Policy Framework, and in particular the policies on local standards or requirements at paragraphs 95, 174, and 177, in both plan making and decision-taking.
From the date the Deregulation Bill 2015 is given Royal Assent, local planning authorities and qualifying bodies preparing neighbourhood plans should not set in their emerging Local Plans, neighbourhood plans, or supplementary planning documents, 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policy requiring any level of the Code for Sustainable Homes to be achieved by new development; the government has now withdrawn the code, aside from the management of legacy cases. Particular standards or requirements for energy performance are considered later in this statement.
Local planning authorities and qualifying bodies preparing neighbourhood plans should consider their existing plan policies on technical housing standards or requirements and update them as appropriate, for example through a partial Local Plan review, or a full neighbourhood plan replacement in due course. Local planning authorities may also need to review their local information requirements to ensure that technical detail that is no longer necessary is not requested to support planning applications.
The optional new national technical standards should only be required through any new Local Plan policies if they address a clearly evidenced need, and where their impact on viability has been considered, in accordance with the National Planning Policy Framework and Planning Guidance. Neighbourhood plans should not be used to apply the new national technical standards.
For the specific issue of energy performance, local planning authorities will continue to be able to set and apply policies in their Local Plans which require compliance with energy performance standards that exceed the energy requirements of Building Regulations until 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 (outgoing) Code for Sustainable Homes Level 4. Until the amendment is commenced, we would expect local planning authorities to take this statement of the government’s intention into account in applying existing policies and not set conditions with requirements above a Code level 4 equivalent. This statement does not modify the National Planning Policy Framework policy allowing the connection of new housing development to low carbon infrastructure such as district heating networks.
Measures relating to flood resilience and resistance and external noise will remain a matter to be dealt with through the planning process, in line with the existing national policy and guidance. In cases of very specific and clearly evidenced housing accessibility needs, where individual household requirements are clearly outside the new national technical standards, local planning authorities may ask for specific requirements outside of the access standard, subject to overall viability considerations.
Decision taking, Transition and Compliance:
From the date the Deregulation Bill 2015 is given Royal Assent until 30 September 2015: The government’s policy is that planning permissions should not be granted requiring, or subject to conditions requiring, compliance with any technical housing standards other than for those areas where authorities have existing policies on access, internal space, or water efficiency.
Planning permission may still be granted on the basis of existing Local Plan and neighbourhood plan policies on access, internal space, and water efficiency, even though they may have a degree of conflict with the new national technical standards.
Where there is an existing plan policy which references the Code for Sustainable Homes, authorities may continue to apply a requirement for a water efficiency standard equivalent to the new national technical standard, or in the case of energy a standard consistent with the policy set out in the earlier paragraph in this statement, concerning energy performance.
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. Decision takers should only require compliance with the new national technical standards where there is a relevant current Local Plan policy.
Planning policies relating to technical security standards for new homes, such as door and window locks, will be unnecessary because all new homes will be subject to the new mandatory Building Regulation Approved Document on security (Part Q). Policies relating to the external design and layout of new development, which aim to reduce crime and disorder, remain unaffected by this statement.
Where policies relating to technical standards have yet to be revised, local planning authorities are advised to set out clearly how the existing policies will be applied in decision taking in light of this statement.
If, in the light of experience in implementing this policy statement, the government considers that it is not being accorded sufficient weight by planning authorities, we will consider bringing forward new legislation to secure implementation.