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Government unveils plans to cut red tape and boost house building

Following the launch of a review in October 2012, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has published its long-awaited consultation on housing standards, which was announced by Communities Minister Don Foster yesterday (20 August).
The consultation sets out a number of planned changes to housing standards, which include phasing out the Code for Sustainable Homes and requiring minimum space standards for new homes.

While essential safety and accessibility rules will not be changed, it has been proposed that a mass of additional and often confusing housing standards that councils are free to apply locally are cut from over 100 to fewer than 10. In addition, it has been suggested that more than 1,500 pages of guidance should be reduced to fewer than 80, saving councils and house builders time and money. No changes are being made to planning rules.

Mr Foster said: 'At a time when we are working closely with British business to create jobs and build a stronger economy it's essential the government plays its part by taking off the bureaucratic handbrake that holds back house building and adds unnecessary cost. I'm proposing to cut needless red tape to let house builders get on with the real job of building the high quality new homes that people need, especially families and first time buyers.'

Responding to the announcement, the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) said that the move would be a major boost to Britain's small and medium-sized house builders, and will help to increase the supply and choice of new homes needed to address the growing housing crisis.

Beatrice Orchard, head of communications at the FMB, said: 'Small and medium-sized house-builders are committed to providing high-quality housing tailored to meet local need, but the proliferation of an array of local, national and voluntary standards has added unnecessary complexity and cost to the house building industry in recent decades. These costs have a disproportionate impact on smaller firms and smaller developments.'

She continued: 'It is essential we continue to bear down on unnecessary red tape and bureaucracy, to encourage more SME developers to bring new homes to market. SME builders are vital if we are going to address the spiralling housing deficit, and help people get a foot on the property ladder and prevent them from having to move away from their families and places of work because of rising house prices.'

However, the UK Green Building Council (UK-GBC) warns that the Government's new proposals fail to present a vision for sustainable homes. It says that the consultation excludes key sustainability requirements such as the responsible sourcing of materials and ecology.

Paul King, chief executive of UK-GBC, said: 'What we need is a vision for national housing standards that provides industry with the clarity and certainty it needs to build homes that are fit for the needs of people in the future. It therefore makes sense to rationalise a set of standards that has proliferated over time and, in some places, become confusing and counterproductive.'

He continued: 'However, with the demise of the Code for Sustainable Homes and big omissions around materials and ecology, we risk losing a momentum that has transformed the way homes have been built over the last seven years.

Government claims its plans will take off the bureaucratic handbrake that holds back house building, but it is in danger of letting key sustainability considerations roll away completely.'

Chief executive of National Housing Federation, David Orr, said: 'We were involved in the housing standards review because we want to see greater consistency and clarity across standards for all new housing. For truly sustainable new homes that will provide enough space for families to grow, have low fuel bills and reflect local character and conditions we need strong guidelines that ensure good homes are built, but without imposing needless or inappropriate requirements.'

The consultation on housing standards will close on 22 October 2013.

To read the full announcement by Communities Minister Don Foster go to http://bit.ly/16aMUz9



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21 August 2013

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