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Building Regs – OMG, WTF?

What use is all this kissing,
If thou kisses not me?

Dear Mr Cameron. Um, What the- insert own expletive here – are you playing at?

We – the construction industry – asked your Government to do something to ease the burden on the housebuilding industry, to help get the market moving again, but we did not, repeat did not, ask you to tear up the list of regulations and standards.

Building regulations are there for a reason. Yes, I know they are a burden but they are a burden that’s good to have because they are about – and obviously I am generalising here – raising standards.

Raising, increasing, making better = A GOOD THING. Lowering, minimising can be A GOOD THING but not in the case of standards. If you take away the impetus for people to make things better then there’s well, no impetus for them to make things better.

Building Regulations are all about making sure that buildings are constructed to standards that ensure they work for the people that have to live in them, work in them, visit them. They ensure, hopefully, that the building won’t fall down in a bit of a gale, that heat generated by the boiler actually warms the room and doesn’t disappear through the walls.

It was the Building Regulations amendment to Part L in 2004 which made high efficiency boilers mandatory for all but a handful of properties – new and retro-fit. This has reduced energy costs and energy use for thousands of people. Isn’t this something the government is supposed to be encouraging?

It was amendments to Doc M which meant that houses have to have a downstairs lavvy and level access from the street, thereby allowing thousands of disabled, less able and elderly people to continue to live in their own homes or with some sort of “normal” household style.

It was the amendments to Building Regulations and the Disability Discrimination Act which enabled thousands of disabled people to access buildings with a minimum of fuss, the same way that the rest of us take for granted.

On hearing the news, Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson said: “Oh well, back to bumping up and down the town hall steps on my bum”.

Now, I know that this bonfire of the standards hasn’t happened yet, may not happen and may not happen in quite the way I am imagining it. But the fact that they are even thinking about it shows, to my mind, a horrifying lack of understanding about what is stopping people from buying homes and from building homes.

No-one is really opposed to simplification of rules and regulations of they make life easier and the process of building smoother, easier and more useful for the whole chain. But there’s a real danger of throwing, not just the baby, but the whole damn family out with the bathwater.

The Government would probably say that it is listening what the construction industry has to say and is acting on it.

Yes, Mr Cameron, you and your Bullingdon clique and your coalition patsies may well be listening but you aren’t hearing us. Tear up the regulations but leave VAT on RMI at 20%? This makes no sense.

Seriously. Cameron, get a grip.

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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