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Approved Inspector Building Regulations
Fire Risk Assessment

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Combustible Cladding Policy

Posted by wilkinsoncc on May 21, 2018 at 8:55 AM Comments comments (0)

The Hackitt report was published last week and like many we were shocked at its conclusions, and importantly its lack of them in relation to cladding.

Given the clear case for action on combustible cladding and the ease with which an amendment could be made by issuing a corrigenda amendment to Approved Document B, we cannot understand why Dame Hackitt did not make this move a top priority.

As it stand there are no changes to the guidance in the Approved Documents and designers and contractors could continue to use Desk Top Studies to justify the use of untested cladding systems. This simply cannot be right.

We note that LABC have produced guidance saying they will continue to accept not only method 3 desktop studies but even method 4 studies subject to certain restrictions. This is all the more concerning as Dame Hackitt has suggested that only LABC should continue to approve High Rise buildings effectively banning Approved Inspectors working on them. This despite both Grenfell Tower and Lakanal House being Local Authority projects.

Over the next few weeks we will be making a series of posts reviewing the Hackitt report and setting out what we believe to be a better and more logical solution to the problems with the current system.

However in the meantime whilst we can continue to deal with High Rise Buildings (and in the longer term on buildings between 18m and 10 storeys) WCCL are today announcing the following policy.

1) We will advise clients to adopt the following strategy set out in BS 9991 2015 as though it supersedes the Approved Document - e.g.

• The external surfaces of walls should meet the provisions in Figure 17.

• In a building with a storey 18 m or more above ground level, any cladding material, insulation product, filler material (not including gaskets, sealants and similar), etc., used in the external wall construction should be of limited combustibility.

• Cavity barriers should be provided in accordance with Clause 19.

• External balconies that are enclosed should be constructed and separated from other enclosed balconies with compartmentation and fire-resisting construction in accordance with Annex D.

2) Where clients wish to use combustible construction despite our advice, then the external walls must meet the performance criteria given in BRE Report BR 135 for cladding systems. We will require full scale test data from BS 8414-1 or BS 8414-2 for the exact system to be used. We will not accept any variation from those test results and or desk top studies in any form to justify the use of combustible materials in systems that have not been tested.

We appreciate that this policy may result in losing projects to other BCB who do not take this approach and that this approach may be challenged by those producing combustible cladding products. However, pending the full outcome of the Grenfell Inquiry and revised updated guidance being issued by MHCLG we do not believe that it is appropriate to do nothing. We therefore call upon all BCB and those involved in construction to adopt the same consistent approach and to provide reassurance to those living and working in high rise buildings that cladding is safe.

Hackitt Report

Posted by wilkinsoncc on May 8, 2018 at 5:45 AM Comments comments (0)

The much awaited Hackitt Report into the future of Building Control is due to be published soon.

In this blog we look at the changes to the system that we would like to see in the recommendations.

  1. Approved Inspectors have no powers of enforcement unlike Local Authorities. This needs to be reviewed and either powers given to Approved Inspectors or a new National Enforcement Body set up to ensure a level playing field. In addition powers should be introduced to enable on the spot fines and stop notices to be issued in line with the way the HSE currently enforce CDM regulations.
  2. There needs to be consistency on service delivery and a single overarching licencing body should be provided to licence and oversee both public and private sector BCB - a sort of OFFWAT for Building Control. The current Licensing body for Approved Inspectors (CICAIR) would be well placed to undertake this role, however would need additional resources and enforcement powers.
  3. A Golden Thread is required to preserve the original design intent throughout and making sure any changes go through a formal review. The current system of Building Notices should be withdrawn and replaced with a requirement for outline Building Control Approval to be in place prior to works commencing on site. This stage would require that plans showing basic fire safety measures (in line with Reg 38 guidance) are submitted, the fire service consulted where applicable and agreed in principle prior to works commencing
  4. All projects should have a single designated person to take responsibility for co-ordinating Building Regulations compliance. This role already exists on the statute books and is known as an Appointed Person. However this section of the Sustainable and Secure Buildings Act has never been enacted
  5. To ensure that there are no conflict the Appointed Person should ensure that all BCB are assessed prior to appointment and that they have the necessary resources and experience for the nature of the project. Additionally there must be no conflicts of interest and the BCB should not have any design or financial interest in the scheme - for example the BCB should not own the building and should not directly or indirectly (for example as part of a group of companies) be involved in designing the scheme.
  6. Building Control fees ideally would be set against a national fee scale to help prevent competition on price, and should be paid in advance (eg at application stage) to ensure that there is no conflict of interest and no pressure to sign off non-conforming works in order to receive payment.
  7. The regulations themselves need to be simplified and Government should take a greater role in determining interpretation rather than leaving it to industry. For example the BCA Guide 18 that allowed the use of desktop studies should not have been produced and instead Government should have stepped in to clarify the correct interpretation. This can be done through the use of an smart phone App to improve access to the regulations and a FAQ section allowing questions to be posted and replied to.
  8. We would like to see the guidance on Cladding clarified to permit only systems that are either Limited Combustibility or have been tested in the exact combination to be used. It will also be necessary to improve the collection of data to show what materials have been installed and where, for example in the event of a future product failure it should not be necessary to undertake removal and destructive testing as was the case at Grenfell. This could be achieved by manufacturers bar coding products and builders using smart phone technology to GPS position and record exactly what product and batch was used on what building – again uploaded to a national database. Where BIM is used this would also flag up instantaneously any deviations in design or product substitution and ensure the Golden Thread is maintained.
  9. British Standard Fire Tests should be reviewed to ensure that the current assumptions on fire growth (Eg time and temperature) accurately represent the increased use of plastics within buildings.
  10. The Regulations on controllable works need further clarification, as even minor works such as installing cabling can breach fire separating or compartment walls, replacement doors can also reduce fire protection, and these elements need to be captured either through self certification by competent contractors or by formal Approval.
  11. The current regulations do not require retrospective improvements for fire safety - so a tall building that does not have sprinklers can continue to be non-complaint as long as works are not made worse. We would like to see the introduction of consequential improvements for fire safety measures (these already exist for thermal upgrades). This would require that a % of the cost of any project is spent on upgrading fire safety measures and would encourage owners to implement improvements recommended within Fire Risk Assessments. For example if 2% was applied as a bench mark then on a £1M project £20'000 would need to be spent on improving fire doors or fitting sprinklers if these didn’t already comply.
  12. In addition it needs to be made clear that Building Control approval is a minimum standard and not a get out of jail free card. Building Regulation Approval is similar to a MOT certificate – it looks at ensuring the minimum safeguards on the day of the inspection. The culture of industry needs to change and instead of trying to design down to the minimum standards of Fire Safety (or even below them), designers and building owners should compete & innovate to become the safest building. The use of Euro NCAP markings on cars have encouraged motor manufacturers to exceed minimum MOT standards introducing additional air bags, collision detection etc. Elsewhere similar marking systems have encouraged improvements in Energy Efficient buildings and appliances and even in food safety standards. We would like to see the introduction of a mandatory Fire Safety Marking scheme based on the current FRA process requiring a summary to be displayed on all buildings.
  13. We would also like to see a requirement for FRA to be deposited up to a national database accessible to the Fire Service so that they can see that they are up to date and that the recommendations and risk levels can be monitored and enforced as necessary.

Many of these ideas are hardly new and most have been around since the Future of Building Control Implementation Plan published in 2009 a report that has still not been implemented by either the coalition or the current Government.

Guest Blog

Posted by wilkinsoncc on April 16, 2018 at 6:15 AM Comments comments (0)

Just moved home or about to renovate your living and kitchen space? The trend for opening up a property – removing walls to get that amazing feeling of space, as well as making your mark on your home or a new house – continues to grow. However, going open-plan can be a Building Regulations minefield; there are various issues you may come up against, but the key focus is always fire safety. As you weigh up your design options, here are some tips to help you to create a safe and legally compliant open space.

What are the main Building Regulations issues for open-plan spaces?

The main issues associated with open-plan areas are fire safety and safe escape.

For example, is your staircase separated from your open-plan space by a fire door to allow a safe passage out of the building from other parts of the house? Is the kitchen – which is, of course, a fire risk area – closed off by a fire door? What about ventilation? One of the most common questions I’m asked when it comes to open-plan spaces is how to work around the issue of the kitchen fire door, which many people don’t want to install.

You might hear about friends or neighbours who plan to get their Building Regulations Certificate and then remove the fire doors the regulations stipulated they must have, but which they never really wanted. Be aware that this is not only illegal, it’s also unsafe: the regulations are designed to save your life.

So before you get swept away in the excitement of your new, open-plan space, it’s important for your architect to consult with Building Control sooner rather than later to ensure your design is actually achievable. (More on Building Control inspectors shortly.)

If you’re still deciding on your design, take a look at lots of open-plan kitchens for more ideas.

Is there a fire escape route?

One of the major questions your architect and Building Control officer will ask is, ‘Will it be safe to escape in the event of fire?’ It’s an issue nobody should take lightly, and even though dealing with it often makes open-plan spaces more difficult, it’s nevertheless important to stick to these rules.

For example, a staircase providing an escape route from upstairs rooms wouldn’t generally be allowed to go through the kitchen. This is because the kitchen is considered a fire risk, and therefore no escape route should lead through it. Staircases are escape routes as well, and usually all rooms need a 30-minute separation – in other words fire doors – around them on the ground floor. The only way an escape route could lead through a kitchen is if you have a mist system installed, or sprinklers.

In this open-plan space, no doors are needed between the kitchen and reception rooms. Why? Because there’s a ‘secondary escape’. Read on for more about these.

Is there a secondary fire escape?

In order to create an open-plan living/kitchen/dining area like this one (the living area is where the photo has been taken from), you’ll need to have an alternative fire escape, or what Building Regulations terms a ‘secondary escape’, from these areas.

These escapes could be doors into the garden, or even windows, provided they are of a minimum size. If this is the case, you may not need to separate your kitchen from your diner and your living space with doors.

Do you need a sprinkler system?

Sprinklers, already touched upon earlier, are probably something most homeowners want to avoid having to install, especially as they can be expensive.

However, since Building Regulations states there must be a safe passage through open-plan spaces adjacent to stairs, this could be the only solution for this kind of layout, as escape routes are made safer if a fine water mist is ‘sprinkled’ in the event of fire, allowing for more time to escape.

You need to consider sprinklers when:

  • your design means you’ll need to go through a kitchen from a staircase to your entrance door or a bedroom.
  • you want a completely open-plan layout, for example in a loft. The sprinklers then usually take the function of doors and walls to separate rooms.
  • you have very long corridors in your house and no secondary means of escape.

Is there sufficient kitchen ventilation?

In open-plan kitchens, mechanical ventilation needs to be installed for the kitchen extractor. A recirculating design is not sufficient, because not only do extractors get rid of smells, CO2 and other harmful gases, they also remove water vapour, which is created when you cook. Without correct extraction, mould can grow, just as it would in a bathroom without ventilation.

A side point here, back on the topic of doors: at the rear of this open-plan kitchen, there are double doors closing it off from the hallway, staircase and front door, which in the event of a fire in the kitchen provide a safe exit from the staircase. If you want to install glazed doors in a situation like this – as here – you’ll need to ensure the glass is fire-rated.

Is the glazing safe?

Any glazing below 800mm needs to comply with safety standards and to meet Building Regulations requirements. This would apply, for example, to secondary escape route doors, such as the external glass patio doors pictured here (as well as the internal doors pictured previously).

Fire-rated glass must have confirmation from your supplier that it meets required safety standards, and there should also be a sticker on the glass to prove it. The sticker is key, as without it you have no proof the glass is safe, and you wouldn’t get a Building Control Certificate.

How do I ensure split-level open spaces comply?

If your open-plan space is not all on one level, don’t worry. As long as the steps from one level to another are like your stairs, and therefore not considered a ‘trip hazard’ (as a barely noticeable threshold would be), you will be fine.

With higher than usual spaces, safe fire escape routes are different. The same rules apply, but they can be challenged with the help of a fire consultant’s report. This includes calculations to prove that, for example, the escape route can be longer because there is more void above, which needs longer to fill with smoke (meaning it’s OK if people need more time to escape).

If you have such a space or would like to create one, I’d always suggest using an approved inspector, which means a private company can give you a Building Control Certificate. This type of inspector is, in my experience, more likely to be flexible with interpreting the regulations, while of course keeping your safety in mind as a priority at all times.

Can I have sliding doors?

How often do you close the door to your kitchen in an otherwise open-plan space? Probably rarely or never. Since, however, a fire door is required, and the cost of a fire shutter or sprinklers is much higher, let’s consider pocket sliding doors. This solves both of these issues – you are still safe and legal, and by sliding the door into the wall, the sense of open space remains.

New regulations do allow sliding doors into kitchens in open-plan spaces. (Previously they were not allowed at all.) A few years ago, such doors needed to be self-closing, but the regulations have been adapted. However, if the door is glass, as seen in this room, it must also be fire-safe as described earlier

First publish on Houzz

Michael Schienke 18 December 2015

Houzz UK Contributor. Chartered Architect, director and founder at Vorbild Architecture Limited. The company was established in 2007 and specialises in a "one stop shop" services including land search, budget advice, planning application in the UK and France / Monaco, interior design, tender package, site supervision, contract management and full architectural and interior design services, as well as specialist services like : site and property search, feng shui consultation, client supply sourcing, furniture design and sourcing and landscape design.

20 Questions that need answers in light of Grenfell Fire

Posted by wilkinsoncc on June 26, 2017 at 1:45 AM Comments comments (0)

20 Questions that should be answered quickly in the light of the Grenfell Disaster

(originally posted on twitter on 16th June 2017 by our MD Geoff Wilkinson @geoffwilkinson)

1: Can we see the Architects plans & specifications?

2: Were these approved?

3: Were the fire service consulted?

4: Can we see a copy of the consultation respons?

5: How many site inspections were made?

6: Can we see records of those inspections?

7: Were the approved materials used or was there a "value engineering exercise"?

8: Did the contractor rely only on the minimum statutory inspections or did they employ their own clerk of works to inspect?

10: Was the fire risk assessment updated as a result of the works?

11: Can we see a copy of the fire risk assessment?

12: What recommendations did the fire risk assessor make?

13: Were those recommendations acted upon?

14: Was any further work (e.g. Gas main) carried out after the building control sign off?

15: If so did that work require approval?

16: When was the last fire risk assessment carried out?

17: When were fire doors last checked?

18: When were emergency lights last tested?

19: When were smoke control systems last tested?

20: Can a sample of the cladding be taken off and tested urgently and publicly?

What should landlords do in response to Grenfell Tower Tragedy

Posted by wilkinsoncc on June 25, 2017 at 3:55 AM Comments comments (0)

Advice on what to do to reassure residents

Here is the current guidance for landlords in light of emerging findings from Grenfell Tower

  • Check that the fire risk assessment has been carried out within the previous 12 months and that the recommendations within the action plan of the assessment have been completed;
  • Check that there have been no material changes (to the building, the fire safety measures or the occupancy) that could, potentially, undermine the validity of the fire risk assessment. For example installation of replacement windows, cabling, gas safety works.
  • Engage with your residents to ensure they fully understand the emergency fire procedures in the building, particularly the meaning of “stay put”. Ensure that fire procedure notices are accurate. The Fire Service are currently advising that Stay Put remains the correct advice in most cases unless major defects are highlighted in the risk assessment.
  • Check that there are no combustible materials (eg storage of refuse, barbeques) in the vicinity of the cladding. Ensure that there are measures to prevent combustible materials in such locations (eg by temporary barriers or instructions to residents). Instruct residents that they must not have any barbeques on any balcony.
  • Check that all flat entrance doors, and doors that open onto escape corridors and stairways, are fire-resisting and effectively self-closing against any resistance of a latch (or, for example, in the case of plant rooms or cupboards, are kept locked shut.
  • Check all walls that separate flats, plant and store rooms, etc from escape routes to ensure there are no obvious routes for fire or smoke spread (eg, holes where services, such as pipes and cables, pass through walls).
  • Check that any smoke control systems including automatically opening windows, roof lights, and associated fire detection systems, are operating correctly
  • Check all facilities provided for fire-fighters, including fire-fighting lifts and dry or wet rising mains are fully operational and have been tested. If you have ANY concerns you should contact your local fire and rescue service, who will, if they have not already done so, carry out an inspection to ensure functionality.
  • Ensure that there is sufficient roadway access and hardstanding for firefighting vehicles attending incidents and to be set up to fight any fire externally. Consider installing bollards to prevent inconsiderate parking
  • Check that insulation or other materials that form the façade meet all relevant standards - consider sending a sample of the panel and insulation for testing - especially if the block exceeds 18m in height.

If you discover that the cladding and insulation are of the same type used in Grenfell or fail the test then there are some emergency measures that you should immediately implement to ensure the safety of residents, pending replacement of the cladding

Notify Fire and Rescue Service.

Inform your local fire and rescue service fire safety/protection department. Failure to do so may put fire-fighters as well as residents at risk.   The fire and rescue service will carry out an urgent inspection with the ‘responsible person’ to ensure that they are identifying and introducing appropriate interim measures, as set out below. The fire service will carry out a further inspection once the interim measures have been completed:If the building is protected by an automatic sprinkler system (or equivalent fire suppression system) you might not need to take any further interim measures before replacement of the cladding.

If the building is not protected by a suitable suppression system you must consider the need for interim measures. The measures adopted need to be based on an assessment of the risk by a competent person, but the following must, at least, be considered:

  1. Residents to be advised to ensure all smoke alarms are present and working in their flat; to report concerns about fire safety measures in the building (eg presence of combustible materials in escape routes) to their landlord and, understand the purpose of any interim measures being taken.
  2. Closure of car parks in which a vehicle fire could impinge on cladding.
  3. Provision of a temporary communal fire alarm system, comprising smoke detectors in circulation areas and plant rooms, and fire detectors (possibly heat detectors, rather than smoke detectors) in conjunction with fire alarm sounders in each flat. This will enable the entire block to be evacuated simultaneously in the event of fire. This option is unlikely to be suitable for tall blocks, in which a large number of people would need to use escape routes at the same time. The system may comprise a wireless system, using radio to link devices.
  4. Provision of a fire watch by appropriately trained patrolling security officers/wardens.
  5. In the case of the most serious risk, consideration must be given to moving all residents out of the block until satisfactory remedial work has been done.

From the flames of the Great Fire

Posted by wilkinsoncc on September 5, 2016 at 1:15 PM Comments comments (0)


This week sees the 350th Anniversary of the 1666 Great Fire that devastated London and led to the introduction of the first proper system of Building Regulations in the UK

Laws had previously existed to reduce the risk of fire, prohibiting building with wood or roofing with thatch, but these laws had largely been ignored. Despite a number of previous fires timber-frame remained the most common form of construction in and as the population grew, so buildings were extended upwards creating jettied timber houses overhanging narrow streets.

The fire started in Pudding Lane in a baker’s shop owned by Thomas Farriner – who was the king’s baker His maid failed to put out the ovens at the end of the night, and the heat created by the ovens caused sparks to ignite the wooden home of Farriner. Strong winds fanned the flames and without any form of fire break the Great Fire spread rapidly between buildings, resulting in an estimated 80% of the city being destroyed and 70,000 people being made homeless. It was only the Thames that prevented the Fire spreading south and even greater losses.

That disaster led to the London Building Act of 1667, the first to provide for surveyors to enforce its regulations. Charles II decreed after the Fire that the City would be rebuilt in bricks or stone, and that streets should be wide enough to act as a fire break to prevent the spread of fire from one side to another. The number of storeys and width of walls were carefully specified.

Sir Christopher Wren was amongst the group tasked to draw up these regulations which became known as the London Building Act of 1667 and which applied to the walled City of London. Further acts of 1707 and 1709 extended control to Westminster, and by 1774 Building Regulations covered the whole of London. These Act's also included requirements for structural load-bearing walls, foundations, timber in party walls, joist centres, beam bearings, roof coverings and rainwater gutters and down-pipes, and was enforced by newly created District Surveyors - the fore runner of todays Building Inspector. Remnants of this system - the 1939 London Building Act (Amendment) Act and District Surveyors - still exist in London to this day.



Sponsored Water Pump

Posted by wilkinsoncc on August 2, 2016 at 6:30 AM Comments comments (0)

We are pleased to provide an update on the Elephant Pump we sponsor in Africa in partnership with Aquaid Water Coolers

Our pump is now live and located in Zimbabwe in Manicaland – a province in the north eastern highlands of Zimbabwe.


An Elephant Pump is illustarted below and can easily provide safe drinking water for upwards of 300 people, so the impact on the community where the well is built is profound and far reaching.


These include


It provides safe, clean drinking water to a community that before would not have access to drinking water, but would most likely need to walk for miles to retrieve water in buckets or containers.


Having a pump eliminates many diseases e.g. dysentery – the concept of the Elephant Pump arose from the CE of The Africa Trust, Ian Thorpe, witnessing people having fallen ill from water from a contaminated water source where a snake had fallen in and decayed.


As the focus of the well building is for sustainability, it is likely that having access to water close by will mean that the children (as well as others) in the community will be able to eat better, drink more water and from this be able to better concentrate in class at school, which means a better education, which means a better future for them.


Depending upon the set-up in the community it is possible that a banana plantation could be established, and using water from the pump, the bananas could then be sold, more banana plants could be planted, and the monies from the sales could contribute towards the children’s’ school fees.


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.