Permitted Development Rights

The Government has announced it is revising its proposals to grant permitted development rights for larger house extensions for a period of three years. The announcement was made in the House of Commons when the Growth and Infrastructure Bill was debated.
The proposed reforms should make it quicker, easier and cheaper for people to build small-scale, single-storey extensions and conservatories without the need for making a planning application.
The proposals have nothing to do with the requirements of the building regulations which would still apply.

Review of Building Regulations and Housing Standards

Don Foster the new Communities Minister has brought together a group of building experts, with a mission to simplifying the rules and regulations that control building in order to simplify the existing system for developers, builders and householders. This in part will facilitate efficiencies and promote economic growth.
The strategy forms part of the on-going process to reduce red tape and to go some way in satisfying the need for new build homes.
As with all these reviews the intention is to reduce regulation and make the process of building less burdensome. We will see if that occurs.
The group intends to provide a report to the government in the spring and I will keep you advised as matters progress.
Mr Foster stated that ” an urgent review has now started, bringing the Government together with house builders, planners, councils and architects to establish what the unnecessary measures are that we can cut out of the system, whilst ensuring buildings are still made to exacting standards.”

Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 (RIDDOR)

There have been changes to the reporting requirements for RIDDOR. RIDDOR puts duties on employers, the self-employed and people in control of work premises (the Responsible Person) to report serious workplace accidents, occupational diseases and specified dangerous occurrences (near misses).
From the 6th April 2012 the reporting requirement in RIDDOR for over-three day injuries has been revised. The reporting point has increased from more than three days to more than seven days incapacitation. (Incapacitation means that the worker is absent or is unable to do work that they would reasonably be expected to do as part of their normal work.)
Under RIDDOR the Responsible Per is still required keep a record of all over- three day injuries. (This would normally be recorded in the Accident Book)
The deadline by which the over-seven day injury must be reported has also increased to 15 days from the day of the accident.

Building your own home news

It was recently and officially announced by the Housing Minister Grant Shapps that new support is now available to give people advice and support when intending to build their own home.
Many people see the idea of building their own home as an opportunity to design and build a home to suit their own requirements and to save costs.
The news comes on the back of reports which suggest that there are an increasing amount of mortgages available for self-build.
Good advice and guidance can be found at the new Portal at www.selfbuildportal.org.uk.

National Planning Policy Framework unveiled

The National Planning Policy Framework is now in force. The Planning Minister Greg Clark stated that the new framework:
• made it clear that the local plan was the keystone of the planning regime
• was crystal clear that sustainable development embraces social and environmental as well as economic objectives and does so in a balanced way
• referred explicitly to the five principles of the UK Sustainable Development Strategy
• went further than ever before and is clear that councils should look for net improvements on all dimensions of sustainability
• made explicit that the presumption in favour of sustainable development works through, not against, local plans
• made it clear that relevant policies – such as those protecting the Green Belt, Sites of Special Scientific Interest, National Parks and other areas – cannot be overridden by the presumption
• recognised the intrinsic value and beauty of the countryside (whether specifically designated or not)
• made explicit what was always implicit: that councils’ policies must encourage brownfield sites to be brought back into use
• underlined the importance of town centres, while recognising that businesses in rural communities should be free to expand
• embraced a localist approach to creating a buffer of housing supply over and above five years, and in the use of windfall sites
• allowed councils to protect back gardens – those precious urban oases
• ensured that playing fields continue to benefit from that same protection that they do currently.

New asbestos regulations

The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 will come into force on 6 April 2012 and will updates the previous asbestos regulations. The changes are moinor and include some non-licensed work with asbestos which now have additional requirements, including notification of work, medical surveillance and record keeping. All other requirements remain unchanged.

A New Town

It is quite amazing and exciting to see that a master plan together with the first phase scheme for a large new town planned for Northstowe in North West of Cambridge has been submitted to South Cambridgeshire District Council. The first phase will include 1,500 new homes together with infrastructure and other facilities although the master plan includes a total of 10,000 new homes together with a town centre, employment areas, school and community facilities.
The site is to be located on the former RAF Oakington Barracks and includes surrounding land amounting to about 480 hectares. It is believed to be the largest new settlement in England since Milton Keynes. It will no doubt contribute to the local housing need and provide much welcome employment for the construction industry.

HSE clampdown to reduce death and injury on construction sites

Construction sites are being put under the spotlight as part of an intensive inspection initiative aimed at reducing death, injury and ill health.
Between 20 February and 16 March, inspectors from the Health & Safety Executive will be visiting sites where refurbishment or repair works are being carried out. This is part of a national month-long drive to improve standards in one of the Britain’s most dangerous industries.
Their primary focus will be high-risk activity such as working at height and also ‘good order’ such as ensuring sites are clean and tidy with clear access routes.
The purpose of the initiative is to remind those working in construction that poor standards are unacceptable, and could result in enforcement action.
During 2010/11, 50 workers were killed while working in construction and 2298 major injuries were reported.

Bristol Ice Skating Rink

Bristol’s one and only ice hockey rink is to closed and concverted to student accomodation. The rink has been open since 1966 and has been used for ice hockey and ice skating. The rink is very dated and suffers from condensation and damp. It also lacks spectator accomodation and facilities. If the site is redeveloped then a new rink suitable for all and accomodating adequate facilities for spectators should be provided out of town.

Developing contaminated land – new guidance

Revised regulations and guidance over the development of contaminated land have been laid before Parliament by DEFRA. It has been brought about by the fact that the existing system is unclear, unwieldly and bureaucratic.
The new rules are subject to Parliamentary approval and won’t come into force until 6 April.
The new statutory guidance should be more usable for those that deal with land contamination and remediation.
A new four-category test has been developed to clarify when land does and does not need to be remediated.
It is hoped that local authorities will be able to deal with low risk sites more quickly.