Introduction to the Building Regulations

In this post we are going to introduce you to the basics of English Building Regulations, and the approval required when carrying out new build work or adaptations/extensions to existing properties. We will also take a look at some of the frequently asked questions about building regulations and try to point you in the right direction for resources and guides to help you.

Disclaimer!! [Please note, this post acts a guide and introduction to general questions relating to the building regulations. Professional advice must always be sought before carrying out any work to property, and all approved documents must be acknowledged and followed, along with any relevant british standards documents and other regulations.Please scroll down to the end of this post for links to the Planning Portal and other resources.]

What are the Building Regulations?


The Building Regulations are a set of national standards which apply to the majority of building projects. They cover a all aspects of the construction project including health and safety of people in and around buildings, energy conservation, access and provision for disabled people, structural requirements, and so on.
Anyone intending to carry out building work must arrange for the work to be checked by an approved inspector to obtain building control approval which ensures the work meets the required standards.
The Building Regulations contain the minimum standards of design and building work for domestic, commercial and industrial buildings. They cover new build projects along with work to existing buildings to ensure all works are carried out to an agreed standard.

Is there anything else I need to consider other than Building Regulations?

The building regulations are not the only legislation which imposes requirements on your building project. Firstly it is important to bear in mind that your project may require planning permission, this should be checked with your local authority before any work is undertaken. It is important to be aware that there are also requirements to comply with Health and Safety (CDM) [], Party Wall Act 1996 [] and any local acts know as local Acts of Parliament which are enforced by the local authority. Although sometimes these will not apply to your project, it is important to be aware of them, and investigate their requirements.

How do I get my project checked by building control?

It is a requirement by law to make sure your project complies with the regulations, and there are two types of service available. The Building Control Service provided by the local authority or the Building Control Service provided by approved inspectors. Whichever service you choose there is a fee.
If you choose to use your local authority building control service, you can contact your district or borough council and they will direct you to the appropriate department.
If you choose to use a private building control service, you can search the Association of Consultant Approved Inspectors for an Inspector in your area or Construction Industry Council 

Local Authority Building Control

Local authority building control has two different procedures available, the first is a full plans application, the second is a building notice.
Full Plans Application:
A full plans application contains plans and any other information that demonstrates construction details, in advance of when the work is due to start. The plans will then be checked and you should have a decision within 5 weeks, or to a maximum of two months. If the plans comply, you will receive notice of approval, or alternatively you might be asked to make amendments to your plans or provide further information. A condition approval can also be issued, which will state that amendments will need to be made, or additional plans submitted.

Once work has commenced on site, the local authority building control will carry out inspections on the work. If you have requested one, on completion of the work you will be issued with a completion certificate.

Building Notice:
This approach tends to be best suited to smaller projects, and cannot always be used if the project requires a full plans submission. It does however, enable small projects to be commenced quickly. You will notify the local authority of your plans to carry out the work giving your ‘building notice’. The local authority will then inspect the work as it progresses, they will flag any issues, and may require further information from you such as plans, structural calculations or details. For a building notice the local authority is not required to issue a completion certificate.

Approved Inspector Building Control Service

Once you have selected an approved inspector they will be responsible for checking your plans and the regular inspection of your building work. You and the inspector will notify the local authority of the intended building work, but from there the approved inspector will take on responsibility of the service.
The approved inspector will provide guidance on the Building Regulations and how the apply to your project, check your plans, and issue the appropriate certificates for approval of plans (plans certificate) and completion of the work (final certificate).

How much do building regulations cost?

Charges for building regulations approval can vary. The charges are based on the type of project, floor area, new build, renovation and cost which varies from one local authority to another. It is best to visit your local authority website under ‘building control’ and navigate to their fees page.
Approved Inspectors fees are competitive and can be similar to that of the local authority.

Can building regulations approval be sought retrospectively?

A property owner can apply for a regularisation certificate for building work that was carried out after 1985 but not submitted to building control for approval. This is a chargeable service. This certificate will serve as evidence that the work complies with the regulations (some remedial work may be required). If you are concerned about work you have carried out on your property or any building work complying with regulations, it is best to contact your local authority to discuss your concerns.

Do I need building regulations or planning permission?

It is important that you establish whether or not planning permission is required on your project. If permission is required, it must be obtained before any work can start on site. Larger projects, such as new builds, large extensions, major changes to existing buildings, change of use, or any work to listed buildings will require planning permission. Smaller projects that consist of minor changes can often fall under permitted development rights, which means the project does not require planning permission, but it is often common practice to apply for a Lawful Development Certificate that confirms the proposals are lawful under planning control services. There is in depth guidance and information relating to all aspects of the planning system at the Planning Portal.
Often, a project that does not require planning permission will still require building regulations approval, so it is important not to make assumptions. If in doubt, consult your local authority to check both the requirements for planning permission, but also the requirements for building regulation approval. Our future article “Do I Need Building Regs Approval – Some FAQs” will look at this in more detail, so check back soon!

Once I have gained approval, does the work need to be completed in a certain time?

Once your building plan has been approved by the local authority or approved inspector, the work must commence within three years of the date of approval. If you fail to do this, you may need to resubmit for approval again in the future.

Do you need building regulations for listed buildings?

Yes, listed buildings are not exempt from building regulations, and building control approval will be required.

Where can I get the building regulations as a pdf?

You can download all of the approved documents as PDFs from the Planning Portal.

Are there any quick guides to the building regulations?

There are a number of useful resources available relating to the building regulations. A few of these are listed below:


Building Regulations In Brief

Guide to the Building Regulations

Free Guides:

Planning – A Guide For Householders


In part two of this guide we will look at the requirements for more specific projects such as conservatories, garages, extensions, lofts and more.

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