On 25 March 2015 Government issued a Written Ministerial Statement setting out the conclusion of the Housing Standards Review. The statement sets out a new policy on the application of technical housing standards that applies immediately to all local planning authorities and qualifying bodies. This has a direct effect on the application of existing Code policies, and the setting of new Code policies.
Following consultation in 2014 the Government has elected to remove the Code for Sustainable Homes and incorporate new additional optional Building Regulations on water and access, and a new national space standard. The aim is to boost industry activity through reduced regulatory and financial burdens. The new national technical standards are expected to come into force in October 2015.
From 26 March 2015 until 30 September 2015, the Government’s policy is that where there is an existing plan policy which references the Code, authorities may continue to only apply:
- a requirement for a water efficiency standard equivalent to the new national technical standard (aligned to Code Level 3), and/or,
- in the case of energy performance, set a standard equivalent to the (outgoing) Code Level 4 requirements.
In respect of cases such as where developments are legally contracted to apply a Code policy or where a case has been granted permission subject to condition stipulating discharge of a Code level, legacy arrangements will apply.
Developers should therefore review their current and pipeline proposals to assess whether planning permission has been sought subject to conditions requiring specific Code levels; and also review the implications of the removal of the Code on cost, marketing and design plans for future schemes.
It should be noted that the energy performance standards set out in the Building Regulations still apply, and it is anticipated that these will be updated in line with the Government’s aspirations for Zero Carbon Homes from October 2016. Although the detail of the next revision to the Building Regulations is not yet known, current industry thinking suggests that they may follow a similar approach to the present standards, coupled with Allowable Solution payments to meet zero carbon targets. So, despite the withdrawal of the Code, industry should remain alert to the evolving energy performance standards as the Government moves closer to the Zero Carbon Standard.
Furthermore, despite the withdrawal of the Code other standards have gained interest, in particular the PassivHaus standard which has become increasingly popular as an approach to delivering energy efficient housing. The BRE is also developing a new voluntary sustainable housing standard, the Home Quality Mark, designed to work in the new national technical standards framework, and currently subject to ongoing consultation.