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Architect Bulletin - October 2018

Published: Monday, 29th October 2018

Forthcoming improvements to 1App, LABC’s response to the Hackitt Review, Information on our Building Control section, Building Live 2018 and more...

LABC have announced their clear support for all the recommendations made in Dame Judith Hackitt’s review of the Building Regulations.

The Hackitt report was published in May 2018 following the Grenfell Tower fire. It called for ‘a radical rethink of the whole system and how it works’. One of the report’s most notable recommendations was the request for a Joint Competent Authority to supervise the signing off of residential buildings more than ten storeys high.

LABC are currently calling on all professionals to support their 100% Hackitt initiative, which encourages the government to implement all of the recommendations in Hackitt’s report, without compromise.

LABC have said:

‘The message is clear and unequivocal – the Hackitt review recommendations must be implemented in full.’

They have also offered a framework to help their members implement Dame Judith’s proposals with minimal disruption to their work. You can find out more on the LABC website.

Over the coming months we will be bringing you a range of articles that focus on various areas of the Planning Portal, drawing attention to the handy tools and resources on different areas of our site. Some of you may not be familiar with our full range of content, so we hope you find these articles helpful and would appreciate any feedback.

For our first piece, we’re looking at our Building Control section.

Back in 2016, we launched our online building control application service, revolutionising the way building control applications are submitted across the England and Wales. Since then, as well as continuing to improve the application service itself, we have built an extensive hub of useful resources around the service.

Our building control section now holds all the tools professionals need to work with building control. As well as making applications to LABCs and some Approved Inspectors, you can access the Approved Documents, accompanied by our summaries in plain English. To keep up to date with any updates to the Approved Documents, follow our blog.

Our site explains in detail the responsibilities of everyone involved in a project. This guidance has been invaluable in helping industry professionals explain the building regulations, which the public generally have very little awareness of, to their clients.

More examples of easy-to-follow guidance can be found in our common projects section.

As you know, in order to attain building regulations approval, you need to get in touch with your local LABC department or contact an Approved Inspector. You can use our handy search functions to find the contact details for both of these Building Control Bodies in your local area.

If your project has been denied approval for any reason, you can also find out about the determination and appeals processes.

The following article is provided by RTPI’s ‘The Planner’ magazine:

The government has proposed permitted development rights for extra storeys on buildings. Are such ‘upwards extensions’ without planning permission a good idea’? Simon Owen of HTA Design LLP offers his thoughts.

In early October, James Brokenshire, the housing secretary announced that the government would consult on extending permitted development rights to so-called upwards extensions – additional storeys on existing buildings.

The rights would mean that building owners would not need to seek planning permission to build residential units on top of their property. Brokenshire said this would introduce “more flexibility to extend upwards on existing blocks of flats, shops and offices making better use of space by increasing housing density”.

Can these rights work in practice? We advocate for densification in suburban areas, but do upwards extensions fit the bill?

This sounds like a great idea and an easy win to deliver new homes. Where there are only going to be limited impacts on surrounding neighbours, this move has the potential to deliver new homes. It is important that existing residents are safeguarded by careful consideration of the impacts of new floorspace.

The issue will be to ensure sufficient safeguards - will it actually be possible to create a prior approval process that isn’t confusing and vulnerable to multiple interpretations, for example?

As a practice of planning consultants and architects, we find that small scale schemes in suburban areas attract more objections than many larger schemes. This means that upward extensions in existing residential areas where there aren’t already taller buildings adjacent will probably be quite unpopular.

The prior approval process would need to ensure that an extra floor on an existing building would be subject to detailed assessments to stop people building whatever they want which could impact on neighbours.

Impacts normally assessed by planning applications would still need to be considered in the prior approval process – issues such as overlooking, overshadowing and daylight/sunlight impacts would need to be considered with detailed reports submitted to the council to check that the proposals are acceptable.

Making sure that the upwards only extension fits in architecturally with the existing building – property owners wouldn’t normally want to blight their building with a devaluing ugly extension, but it is still important to ensure quality.

New homes on existing blocks of flats should still be subject to minimum space and amenity standards. There can be no excuse to create a system where an extension to a building will provide sub-standard homes.

Extending upwards on an existing house would only increase the number of rooms, not the number of homes so would have limited benefit. As most houses are in residential areas where impacts could be more controversial and significant, it is right to exclude conventional houses from any permitted development rights to extend upwards. Politically unpopular as well.

We support the principle to extend offices, retail and flats upwards through permitted development rights, but can we make sure that we don’t end up with a system that ends up with poor quality homes that blight existing residents?

Simon Owen MRTPI is an associate with HTA Design LLP.

Simon Owen, The Planner