A Guide to Building Regulations

Thursday, 8th September 2016 | by: Peter Barry

We are often asked ‘What are Building Regulations, why do I need them, does my project need Building Regulations approval?’ In most cases the answer is “yes”, in almost all residential development work, even if you believe it to be minor works you will need some form of Building Regulations approval.

What Are Building Regulations?

Building regulations sometimes also referred to as building control are a set of standards for the design and construction of buildings to ensure the safety and health for people in or about those buildings. They also include requirements to ensure that fuel and power is conserved and facilities are provided for people, including those with disabilities, to access and move around inside buildings.

The approved documents are closely linked to building regulations as they detail a set of standard to ensure compliance with building regulations. They do not provide a definitive method for approval but are the most common used system.

Failure to gain approval can be expensive and time consuming. Punishment ranges from fines to demolition of the works to prosecution

Getting Approval

Approval is generally given in two stages, Pre-site approval and On-site approval. They usually work in tandem with one another, to ensure that what has been approved on paper is being adhered to in practise.

Approval can be gained through the Local Authority or through an approved inspector. Whilst in most instances they serve the same outcome there is a difference in costs and time management, approved inspectors can be most costly but usually handle the procedure quicker, whilst also providing a more hands on advisory role.

Pre-site Approval

Pre-site approval can be gained through multiple methods. Two of which are made before construction of the project which I will cover first.


You can apply for building regulations approval from your Local Authority Building Control Service by submitting a full plans applications. Applications made in this way will contain a package of drawings showing the works entailed, construction details, engineer’s drawings and constructions notes.

The Local Authority will check the application, consult relevant authorities such as sewerage and fire. They must issue a decision within five weeks or if agreed a maximum of two months.

If the pans comply with the Building Regulations a noticed of approval will be received. If the Local Authority is not satisfied additional details or amendments will be necessary. Alternatively conditions may be placed upon the application however it worth noting that any condition must be agreed upon.

A further point is that, if a disagreement arises with the Local Authority regarding compliance the full plans procedure enables you to apply for ‘determination’ from the Department for Communities and Local Government about do or do not comply with Building Regulations.


You can for Building Regulations approval from your Local Authority Building Control Service by submitting a building notice. Plans are not required with this process making it quicker and less detailed. It is designed to enable types of proposals to commence quickly; although it is best suited to less complicated work.

Specific exclusions in this process apply where building notices are not acceptable:

Using this procedure requires confidence that the entailed work complies with the Building Regulations as there is a risk of having to correct any work carried out if the Local Authority requests this.

A building notice is valid for three years from the date the Local Authority was notified, upon completion of the works and provided that it complies the Local Authority will issue a completion certificate. 

On-Site Approval

Regardless of which Pre-Site procedure was used the Local Authority will look to conduct several site inspection when the work has reached a particular stage to ensure that the works are compliant with the Building Regulations. Examples of these inspection are:

  • Commencement: at least two days prior to work being commenced
  • Completion: not more than five days after work is completed
  • Excavation for a foundation
  • The foundation itself
  • Any damp proof course
  • Any concrete or material laid over a site

Work should be paused to give the Local Authority time to make the inspection when these stages are reached. Failure to notify the Local Authority of inspection may require the work to be opened up.

Should it be determined that the works does not comply, the Local Authority may serve you with an enforcement notice requiring you to alter or remove work which isn’t compliant. Should there be a disagreement appeals against the notice can be made.

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