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Theo Paphitis

Posted by wilkinsoncc on August 2, 2016 at 5:15 AM Comments comments (0)

We are pleased to announce that we have been selected by Theo Paphitis as a winner of his weekly SBS competition on Twitter.

Theo is best known for appearing on Dragons Den on BBC Two, but is also Chairman of Ryman Stationery, Boux Avenue lingerie and Robert Dyas, as well as joint owner of Red Letter Days. Theo is also a mentor and investor to many other business acquainted via the Den including Wedgewelly and Fit Mix Pro.

Each week, Theo reviews and chooses his favourite entries who are then re-tweeted to his followers - all half million of them - providing a massive boost to the chosen lucky businesses. Theo says, "I admire people who have passion and energy. If you cannot bore your friends to death about your own small business then something is seriously wrong. I was struck by the number of business owners on Twitter who wanted to tell me about their new products and services. Small Business Sunday was born so that people have a specific time slot to tweet and can pitch their 'sell' directly to me.

All my businesses are privately owned and entrepreneurial in spirit. My vision is that everyone who has ever won an #SBS re-tweet from me becomes part of a friendly club. Like-minded individuals can share successes and learning's.

The SBS website http://www.theopaphitissbs.com/ also gives a valuable profile to the winners chosen I know I have been lucky in business and I am keen now to spread goodwill to others, of course not forgetting that very often, you make your own luck by making use of every opportunity."

Managing Director Geoff Wilkinson said "it's fantastic to be recognised by Theo in this way, and a real boost to our business from such a successful entrepreneur. Our social media account literally exploded with hundreds of new contacts and over 20'000 impressions in the hours after the award was announced. Theo had commented that the week's entries were a particularly talented bunch so it was a shock to find ourselves names as winners shortly after. We look forward to joining the #SBS family and sharing our experiences and tips within the community that have made us a multi award winning small business"





Party Walls

Posted by wilkinsoncc on June 14, 2016 at 12:25 PM Comments comments (0)

A question we often get asked is can we cover a Party Wall Award as part of the service and unfortunately the answer is no.

As a Building Inspector we are being paid to check on the safety and conformity of the Building Owner's works from one side of the boundary.

We will not normally enter the neighbours property at any stage, certaintly not before works start and will not be able to assist with any damage claim.

Therefore it is important that you appoint your own party wall surveyor. Even if you do not intend on appointing a party wall surveyor, it is important that you get a party wall notice served. Without a valid Party Wall Act notice the works may take place contrary to the legal provisions of the Party Wall Act.

A "party wall award" is a legally binding document prepared by specialist "party wall surveyors”. It allows the building owner to undertake works at, or close to the party wall lawfully whilst safeguarding the rights of the adjoining owner. The "party wall award" determines how and when the party wall works are to be undertaken, states the precise nature of the party wall works in plain English, and sets in place procedures and obligations to protect both parties from potential damage or claims. As a part of the "party wall award" the party wall surveyors will generally examine and comment upon the drawings for the works.This is in addition to our checks that it will meet Building Regulations.


In most cases party wall surveyors will also attach a "schedule of condition" which is a written report of his/her survey of the relevant parts of the adjoining owner's property. The "schedule of condition" allows the party wall surveyors to return to the adjoining property after completion of the party wall works to verify and record any damage that may have occurred. The schedule easily allows claims for damages to be verified and dealt with quickly. It also ensures both parties have a written record of their legal position and the party wall award can therefore often prevent future neighbourly disputes. In some cases the only way to resolve a disputed claim for damages without a "party wall award" is through the courts, which usually puts an end to any amicable neighbourly relations.


If  work may be starting without party wall notice being served, and works will fall under the Party Wall Act , then it is possible to get an order from the court which will stop such works until a notice is served and you are given the opportunity to appoint party wall surveyors.

More answers to the most commonly asked questions about the Party Wall Notices can be found in the Government's Party Wall Act 1996 Explanatory Booklet which can be downloaded from the GOV.UK website along with templates for letters and notices see https://www.gov.uk/guidance/party-wall-etc-act-1996-guidance

Building Control vs Consumer Protection

Posted by wilkinsoncc on June 14, 2016 at 11:50 AM Comments comments (0)

The role of Building Control is often assumed to cover consumer protection, especially in small domestic projects, where the Building Inspector is often the only professional involved in the project.

In fact Building Control do not offer consumer protection, and are there only to ensure certain minimum statutory rules are adhered to. Its easiest to think of Building Control in terms of a car where Building Control would be the equivalent of an MOT test rather than a 7 year manufacturer's warranty. Therefore you could rightly expect the brakes, seat belts and emissions to be correct, but would have no recourse if the Radio, Sat Nav or paintwork were faulty.

The role of the various parties has been set out in the Future of Building Control report published by the Government

The report states that the building control service will:

  • provide a checking service to help achieve compliance with building standards
  • support and advise customers on how to end up with the result they want, but will not be a substitute for professional design and construction advice
  • help with aspects of quality (workmanship and materials) where these affect compliance with building standards, but not where they do not affect compliance
  • ensure that all building standards which are set in the interests of the wider public good have been complied with at completion.

However the building control service will not:

  • be responsible for compliance – that is the duty of the person carrying out the work. If work is found not to comply with building standards the person responsible could be prosecuted and the owner of the building may be required to put the work right
  • manage every stage of the construction process on-site – that is a matter for the contracts and arrangements between the client and builder
  • address issues such as the finish and aesthetics of the final project where these are not relevant to compliance with building standards – these are a matter for designers, developers, builders and, to some extent, new home warranty providers
  • deal with contractual problems between client and builder – this is a matter of contract law.

Roles and responsibilities of those involved in the building control system:

Building owners (householder, landowner, property owner) – are ultimately responsible for compliance of any building work undertaken, and should understand the aims of the building control system (to meet the needs of current and future users of the building, not just their own expectations).

Construction industry (architects, engineers, designers, surveyors, builders, construction companies, developers, etc) – design and build to meet the required standard, and have a clear understanding of the building control system and its role (eg to notify the building control service at agreed stages).

Approved inspectors – provide an independent third-party check on compliance with Building Regulations through plans checking and inspections; carry out informal enforcement, advise customers at design stage and on-site, collect and act on performance management information. Authorised by the Construction Industry Council on behalf of the Secretary of State. Approved Inspectors can also often offer other services beyond the building control system itself, (such as carrying out fire risk assessments and health and safety services), but may not undertake design or have a financial interest in the project.

When you use an approved inspector, they will take on responsibility for plan checking and inspection of your building work .The procedure requires you and the approved inspector jointly to notify your local authority of your intended building work on what is called an initial notice. Subject to any arrangements you have agreed with your approved inspector, you may start work as soon as the initial notice is accepted by your local authority. Work cannot start for a period of 5 days to enable the local authority time to process the Initial Notice.

Once this notice has been accepted by your local authority the responsibility for plan checking and site inspection will be formally placed on the approved inspector. The approved inspector will tell you what plans and information they need in order to check that the proposed work will comply with the Building Regulations. If you ask for one, the approved inspector will issue a plans certificate which will confirm that the plans of your proposed building work show compliance with the Building Regulations. When the work is complete the approved inspector must issue a final certificate to the local authority to say that the work referred to in the initial notice is complete, and that the inspector has carried out their inspection responsibilities.

If the approved inspector is not satisfied with work in progress on site, and you cannot resolve the disagreement by discussion, the inspector will have to cancel the initial notice by a notice to the local authority. This will terminate the inspectors building control responsibility for your project. In these circumstances the Building Control Service function is likely to have to return to your local authority

Important Hints & Tips

  • Get at least three written, itemised quotes for your building work. Prices can vary enormously, but don’t automatically go for the cheapest quote and ensure your quotes are “like for like” i.e. does one quote allow for all fixtures and fittings to a new bathroom but another builds in a nominal sum of £1,000 with you paying the extra.
  • Use a reputable builder – Check out sites such as Trust a Trader, Trust mark or similar or use one who is recommended to you and whose work you can go and look at and whose customers would use again.
  • Have your plans properly drawn up by an experienced architect and ensure that they are submitted to us as early as possible so they can be checked and any problems resolved. That way when a builder is pricing they have an Approved Scheme to price. Spending time and money early on planning and designing your project is money well spent, as defects or changes made at a later stage can be costly in time lost and reworking.
  • Use a contract even if its a simple project there are a number of simple homeowner building contracts available to buy off the internet, or if the Builder is a member of FMB you can download this one www.home-extension.co.uk/fmbcontract.pdf
  • For larger projects such as a new house insist on an insurance backed warranty. Although no longer a legal requirement there are 6 warranty schemes still in operation that were approved by the CIC under the designated warranty criteria, these being

Building Life Plans www.blpinsurance.com

Build Zone www.build-zone.com

Checkmate www.checkmate.uk.com

NHBC www.nhbc.co.uk

Premier Guarantee www.premierguarantee.co.uk

CRL www.structuralinsurance.com

In addition you can also now choose cover under a non designated warranty such as the Architects Certificate scheme if you prefer.

Professional Consultants Certificate Ltd www.architectscertificate.co.uk

Advantage Structural Defects Policy www.ahci.co.uk

Lastly don't forget you may need other permissions such as Planning, Party Wall Awards and that CDM requires that the contractor has at least a basic Health and Safety Plan - dont employ a Builder that will cut costs by working from a ladder when they should have been using a scaffold as you could find yourself liable if something goes wrong.


Disclaimer The information provided through this website is for general information only and does not constitute professional or legal advice. No liability is accepted for reliance on the information contained within this web site. Users should seek the appropriate legal advice before taking or refraining from taking any action based upon the materials contained within this web site.

Edinburgh school closures

Posted by wilkinsoncc on April 11, 2016 at 9:40 AM Comments comments (0)

You may have seen in the news that safety fears have forced the closure of 17 schools in Edinburgh, Scotland, leaving 7,000 pupils at home after the Easter break.

Ten primaries, five secondary's and two additional support needs schools have been shut due to concern over the standard of construction carried out under a public private partnership (PPP) contract approximately 10 years ago.

The alarm was first raised in January this year when a wall at one of the schools, Oxgang's Primary, collapsed during high winds. Three other schools were later closed after inspections revealed problems with the way walls had been built.

On Friday 8th April Edinburgh City Council decided to close all 17 schools citing a “completely unacceptable” standard of construction and pointing to an absence of header ties in sections of the building,”

This is not the first time that this issue has been raised and SCOSS report 242 belived to have been issued in 2011 highlighted examples of a very similar nature http://www.structural-safety.org/publications/view-report/?report=3205

For those unaware the Building Control system in Scotland differs from that in England and Wales where Independent Approved Inspectors and Local Authorities oversee Building Regulation Applications.

However in Scotland Regulations introduced in 1992 allowed the self-certification of structure by chartered Civil or Structural Engineers. These regulations have become widely regarded as inadequate to provide an acceptable level of public safety as the absence of a statutory checking requirement made the possibility of human error a serious risk. A further problem arose from a lack of common understanding as to how much of the development was “structure” and therefore covered by the certificate.

Following great pressure to drop the self certification option it was withdrawn in May 2005. However amid concerns that the complete removal of the self-certification option presented a serious risk of delay and disruption to the building warrant process the option of self certification was replaced. As a result an optional self-certification system was adopted to allow certification by experienced, competent and responsible professionals without any further check by local authorities.

The professional Institutions representing Civil and Structural Engineering set up a structural certification scheme to meet the requirements set down by the Scottish Building Standards Agency (SBSA).

Registration under the Scheme permits individual Chartered Civil or Structural Engineers to certify designs as meeting Building Regulations providing they have met certain criteria, have passed an independent assessment of their competence and experience, and agree to audit by SER. Certifiers approved under this Scheme must be employed by firms that have themselves been accepted for registration as Approved Bodies and these will also be subject to audit.

It is unclear yet which system applied to the Edinburgh Schools PPP schemes and whether or not an independent 3rd Party check was made. However, if it turns out that the structure was self-certified pressure will grow for the Scottish system to drop the self certification option once again.

Approved Documenty B Consultation

Posted by wilkinsoncc on February 1, 2016 at 8:55 AM Comments comments (0)

The inquest into the July 2009 Lakanal House fire, in which six people lost their lives, heard that even the experts disagreed on the interpretation of Approved Document B.


The coroner’s “Section 43” letter to the then communities secretary Eric Pickles recommended a review of Approved Document B to improve usability which recieved much press attention in November 2015. See this article

In response DCLG (the Department for Communities and Local Government) have commsioned NBS to undertake research about the usability of the Approved Documents (particularly Parts B and M).

DCLG will use the findings to guide the development, style and format of future Approved Documents.

The survey explores how you use the Approved Documents and what changes you would like to see. The survey also explores what other resources you use to comply with the Building Regulations in England.

The survey should take around 15 minutes to complete. The survey is detailed, so that DCLG have the level of information they need to develop the Approved Documents in the way users want. As a thank you for completing the survey you will be entered into a prize draw. The winner of the draw will receive a £100 John Lewis Gift Voucher or a donation of the same value to a charity of their choice (terms and conditions apply).

You can take the survey here

Ministers to pilot competition in processing planning applications

Posted by wilkinsoncc on January 7, 2016 at 5:15 AM Comments comments (0)

Planning minister Brandon Lewis has announced proposals to pilot competition in the processing of planning applications.

This move was signalled during the first session of the report stage of the Government’s Housing and Planning Bill.

The proposal will test whether planning could follow the lead from Building Control with  “alternative providers” handling planning applications.

Lewis said the proposals would give the Secretary of State the power to introduce pilot schemes “for competition in the processing of applications for planning permission”.

Lewis stressed that the scheme would be confined to processing applications and would not mean competition in determining planning applications. He told MPs: “Let me be clear: this is about competition for the processing of applications, not their determination.

“The democratic determination of planning applications by local planning authorities is a fundamental pillar of the planning system, and that will remain the case during any pilot schemes that the Secretary of State brings forward.”

Lewis insisted: “These new clauses will allow us to test, in specific areas of the country and for a limited period, the benefits of allowing planning applicants to choose who processes their planning application”.

He added: “That will lead to a more efficient and effective planning system, better able to secure the development of the homes and other facilities that our communities need and want.

“Introducing choice for the applicant enables them to shop around for the services that best meet their needs. It will enable innovation in service provision, bringing new resources into the planning system and driving down costs while improving performance.”

The full transcript can be read at http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201516/cmhansrd/cm160105/debtext/160105-0006.htm - scroll down to column 219 to see the debate.


So What is an Independent Building Inspector and How Can they add value?

Posted by wilkinsoncc on December 15, 2015 at 6:35 AM Comments comments (0)


(This post originally appeared as a guest blog on Selby Designs website)


Building Regulations approval is required on almost every building project, including those that are permitted development under the planning system, and even for internal alterations to your home or office.


In this blog we talk to Approved Inspector Geoff Wilkinson* and ask him about the Approved Inspector system which is the alternative way to get Approval instead of using the Local Authority Building Inspector.


(Geoff is Managing Director of Wilkinson Construction Consultants and writes the Building Regulation column in Architects Journal)

So what does an Approved Inspector do?


The service itself is essentially the same as the councils – the Approved Inspector will check and approve the plans, and then come out and inspect the works being carried out at various stages. I should point out though that the Approved Inspector system is a complete alternative to the Council service, the Approved Inspector is the actual decision maker, not a subcontractor for the council.

How is that possible?


The Government in the 1980’s recognised that the Building Control System was broken and causing great problems to developers as there was no choice in service provision. If your Local Council was short staffed you had no choice but to wait for your application to be processed. Worse still if the Local Authority Union went on strike your building site shut down while you waited to have your work inspected and approved. As a result they decided to introduce competition into the market as a way to improve standards. Successive Governments have recognised the role that Approved Inspectors have played in fixing the problems of the 1980s.

So can anyone become an Approved Inspector?


In short no – not everyone can become an Approved Inspector. Licenses are only issued by the Construction Industry Council and applicants have to prove that they are qualified and experienced to the necessary level before they can practice. This typically means that they hold RICS or equivalent qualifications, have 5 years post qualification experience, have complaints procedures and insurance in place in case anything went wrong, undertake continuous training of staff, and sign up to performance standards. The licenses are reviewed every 5 years there are sanctions that can be taken against Approved Inspectors that fail to perform. Interestingly there are no such requirements for Council Building Inspectors and the Government are now encouraging councils to apply to become Approved Inspectors.

How does the service differ?


The difference is generally in approach as after all both services essentially offer the same thing – a statutory check that building regulations are being followed. Approved Inspectors are commercially aware (they are businesses themselves after all), so understand that the important thing to a client is that works are completed on time and on budget. As a result they look to find ways to help you comply and offer advice early in the process to avoid the need to correct defective work. We don’t justify our fee by trying to find faults!


That may sound like we try to cut corners, but let me explain more. Since the 1980’s the building regulations have been cast in a functional form rather than being prescriptive In plain English this means that there are many different ways that you can show compliance, not just by following the Approved Documents . Approved Inspectors are more flexible in interpretation of the regulations as they are aware of these alternative routes. Also there is no political interference in the decision making process. Unfortunately many Local Authority Building control departments sit beneath Town Planners and in some cases they look to Gold Plate the minimum requirements in order to meet party political aspirations. The Government are trying to stop this completely by bringing all of the technical requirements out of the control of planners and into the Building Control system (see the Housing Review)


Lastly I should point out that Approved Inspectors have a duty to turn down work if they do not have the resources and experience to cope. The reverse is true of the Council service, who cannot refuse to accept a valid application. Councils are permitted 5-8 weeks in order to process an application and during busy periods Local Authority staff can be overstretched to breaking point to meet these targets. In some cases they end up rejecting applications in order to meet those deadlines , whereas there are no such deadlines using Approved Inspectors. As a result turnaround times are typically 5-10 days, instead of 5-8 weeks.

So who are these Approved Inspectors?


Approved Inspectors can vary from large corporate practices of around 100 surveyors covering the whole of the country to small local businesses employing just 1 or 2 staff. Some specialise in particular sectors, such as housing, offices, or retail, whilst others work across all sectors. For the most part Approved Inspectors attract the very best ex Local Authority staff who want to concentrate on delivering high quality services and are fed up with the bureaucracy of Local Government. They don’t just work 9am – 5pm and are on hand to give advice from the earliest stage – often pre-planning to ensure that your design wont be rejected

Sounds great, but its not been tried and tested has it?


Actually it has been – Approved Inspectors were first introduced in the 1980’s and there are now around 60 or so licenses in place, a full list can be seen on the Construction Industry Website.

Why haven’t I heard about this before then?


For many years Approved Inspectors only operated in the commercial sector as the first licenses excluded housing. As a result most of the big commercial developments and many government departments used Approved inspectors whilst small residential developers didn’t. The Government recognised this issue and changed the rules to enable Approved Inspectors to operate on a level playing field and as a result most will now take on smaller projects too.

But it must be more expensive then?


Not necessarily, Approved Inspectors are able to operate without the costs of Local Authority services, operating from small local offices rather than grand civic centres. As a result fees are generally competitive, often within 10% of the Council fee and sometimes even cheaper. More importantly though Building Control fees are typically no more than 1-2% of the cost of a project £600 – £1000 on a typical £30K – £50K extension, and the right choice of Approved Inspector can save significantly more than that in delay and correcting defective works.


Thanks Geoff


We have tried it out ourselves and we can honestly say that the added value that Geoff and his team have been able to contribute to our projects, has been priceless. From early on construction advice enabling us to deal with any potential construction issues at a design stage, significantly reducing the chance of costly mistakes later on, through to the efficient manor in which the applications themselves are dealt with, allowing clients to begin their projects far sooner than if they had opted for the direct local authority route.

Sam Gomersall - Selby Design http://selbydesign.co.uk/ ;

But don’t just take our word for it here’s what our clients have to say about Approved Inspectors ——-

“We bought a new house at auction, having previously been living in rented accommodation and had served notice on our rented property with a very small window to carry out the necessary extension and construction works to our new home, in order to make it suitable for our family. It was extremely important to us that works we were able to start as soon as possible and that there were no delays during the construction phase. With Selby Design’s completed building regulations plans and Geoff’s plans approval being received in 7 days, we were able to start work. Without the level of expertise and efficient application process offered by Wilkinson Construction Consultants, we would never have met our deadline!”


New Building Regs for Broadband

Posted by wilkinsoncc on November 30, 2015 at 1:15 PM Comments comments (0)


Building Regs are like busses - You wait ages for a new one - then 2 come along at once! That's right following hot on the heals of Octobers release of Part Q (Security) DCLG have released a draft Part R for Broadband.

So what is this all about and why is a new regulation necessary?

Well you wont be surprised to find that the European Commission is to blame by introducing a legally binding Directive. The directive requires Member States to ensure that new buildings and major renovations are constructed to enable connection to broadband with speeds of no less than 30 Mbit/s. The requirements of the Directive have to be implemented by “laws, regulations and administrative provisions” and the current approach is that implementation must be done at minimum cost and with no gold-plating.

As the European requirement is triggered by the submission of a “building permit” the obvious route to implementation is the Building Regulations.

No additional primary powers will be needed as the Building Act 1984 can be used to extend the current application process which is already a feature of the UK’s approach under Building Regulations. Enforcement and compliance checking will be undertaken by Building Control Bodies as part of their normal functions. Statutory guidance can then be issued (via the Approved Document) that sets out some of the approaches that developers could take to meet the regulatory requirements.

The draft Approved document has been published and under the new proposals all new housing developments, commercial buildings, schools, retail and other buildings will be required to have infrastructure to enable connections to broadband speeds in excess of 30 Mbit/s.

As ever it will be Small builders, particularly in rural areas where even the most basic technology to enable broadband connection may not be available could be hit hard by the new regulations as they will be required to include the basic internet connection infrastructure in order to gain approval .So in the draft guidance DCLG have included an exemption for single dwellings that are remotely isolated and have no prospect of being served by fast access broadband - which presumably are the only ones which wouldn't be fitted with a phone line in the first place.

Putting aside the fact that the regulations therefore seem to serve no purpose (in fact a similar proposal was shelved in 2004 as it was felt that it was unnecessary ) what do the new regulations actually require?

Well there are several ways to build the required infrastructure. For residential and small commercial buildings, they include:

• Broadband provided over networks originally deployed for cable television via a combination of fibre and coaxial cable. These can deliver speeds of up to 152 Mbit/s.

• A combination of fibre and copper technology. This is where fibre is provided between an exchange and a cabinet, and then the existing copper phone line is used to deliver higher speeds of up to 76 Mbit/s.

• Fibre only technology. These networks rely entirely on fibre to connect buildings to the exchange. This delivers speeds of up to 1 Gbit/s.

For single dwellings a hole in the wall connecting an external access point to the network termination point inside the house is required, the unit cost for houses is expected to be around £68. For flats the EU Directive bizarrely only necessitates ducting not the wiring with an estimated cost of £136.

The full consultation can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/new-part-r-of-the-building-regulations and closes on 11th Jan 2016





Posted by wilkinsoncc on October 2, 2015 at 10:05 AM Comments comments (0)


We are pleased to announce that we have again made the finals of West London Business Awards! The awards are very prestigious and competitive, so to make the finals is quite an achievement. 

Other finalists includehoushold names such as

  • Brunel University
  • Hilton London Heathrow Airport
  • Hammersmith Apollo
  • Wembley Stadium
  • Westfield London
  • Cargiant
  • Pell Frischmann
  • A2Dominion Group
  • Clearview Homes
  • Handelsbanken


The Winners will be announced at a glittering gala dinner presented by Jason Donovan on November 26 with 300 guests expected.



Part B (Wales) New rules require sprinklers in new home

Posted by wilkinsoncc on August 28, 2015 at 5:25 AM Comments comments (0)

New Building Regulations 37A means sprinklers will now be required to all new houses and flats, including those formed by a material change of use.

The rules will only apply in Wales from 1st January 2016, and do not apply to building work which is the subject of an initial notice which is submitted before 1st January 2016, provided that the work is commenced on site on or before 1st January 2017. Applications should ideally be submitted in plenty of time for notices to be served given the Christmas & New Years public holidays.

Full details can be found at