Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Questions (374)

Stephen Donnelly

Question:

374. Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if his Department considered introducing a system of independent inspection of design and construction, such as can be seen operating in England and Wales, to be self-funded and at no cost to the taxpayer, which could offer improvements on the self-certification system, notwithstanding the submission to him by the National Consumers Association on the draft regulations in summer 2012 and the recommendations of the pyrite report. [15218/14]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014 which came into operation on 1 March 2014 greatly strengthen the arrangements in place for the control of building activity by requiring greater accountability in relation to compliance with Building Regulations in the form of statutory certification of design and construction, lodgment of compliance documentation, mandatory inspections during construction and validation and registration of certificates. The new regulations are necessary following the widespread instances of failure by owners, designers and builders to comply with their statutory obligations under the Building Control Act 1990 to design and construct buildings in accordance with the Building Regulations.

The new regulatory approach was preceded by a review by a high level working group, which included representatives of my Department and of local government (nominated by the County and City Managers Association), which reviewed the building control regulatory framework. This review process was informed by awareness of developments in relation to building control generally in other jurisdictions, including in England and Wales.

In broad terms the building control system in operation in England and Wales can be characterised as a full approval based system whereby local authorities inspect and approve all buildings. Significantly it is understood that a decision to step back from full local authority approval in all cases was implemented in 2005 and since that time the England and Wales systems allow for approval by independent professionals. The cost of full approval by a local authority and the need to optimise the use of Government resources were understood to be key considerations in this change.

A move to a full local authority approval system (even one which allowed for the involvement of private sector operators) along the lines of the England and Wales model or otherwise would involve significant increase in building control staffing and resourcing and would be difficult to contemplate in the present economic environment.

The legal obligation on owners, builders and designers to design and construct in accordance with the Building Regulations would continue to apply. The requirement to demonstrate compliance for approval purposes, whether by a building control authority or an approved independent operator, would mean that the person who owns or commissions the work would necessarily incur the requisite design, building and inspection/certification costs, over and above the administrative charge required to cover the approval fee payable to the local building control authority or approved operator.

Question No. 375 answered with Question No. 372.