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Written Statements

Tuesday 30 July 2013

Building Regulations: Part L

Statement

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): In The Coalition: our programme for government, and thereafter my Department’s published Business Plan, we said we would require continuous improvements to the energy efficiency of new buildings. I am therefore today setting out the Government’s response to last year’s consultation on proposed changes to Part L of the Building Regulations (Conservation of fuel and power) and announcing changes to the energy efficiency requirements in the Building Regulations for England. These changes have been overseen by my colleague, the Building Regulations Minister the Rt Hon Don Foster MP.

In doing so I am also responding to our key external partners who are seeking clarity on the issue. Strengthening these requirements takes the next step towards our zero carbon ambitions, will contribute to national emission reduction targets and help to lower people’s fuel bills. The changes are projected to deliver savings of £16 million per year to business and 6.4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.

These changes have been developed in light of the consultation responses received, feedback from the Cabinet Office Red Tape Challenge process, consultation with the Building Regulations Advisory Committee and engagement with external partners. They strike a balance between the Government’s ongoing commitments to improving energy efficiency requirements and ensuring that the overall effect of regulation upon consumers and businesses does not stifle growth. And given that industry wants clarity on the further direction of travel beyond these changes the Government intend to publish a consultation shortly on the next steps to take forward zero carbon homes, including the means of delivering allowable solutions.

These Part L changes take an important and technically meaningful step towards zero carbon homes but one that also allows Government to meet its commitments to reduce the overall regulatory burden upon home builders. For new homes, the changes deliver a 6% improvement on 2010 standards across the build mix, with compliance targets differentiated by home type to take advantage of the most cost effective savings. The existing partial relaxation of targets for homes built off the gas grid, the so called ‘fuel factor’, will stay at current levels to help rural home builders. Home builders will continue to have flexibility in how they meet carbon dioxide targets however the emphasis of these changes is on getting the building fabric right and this is reinforced through the introduction of a new target for fabric energy efficiency.

Similarly I am announcing a strengthening of carbon dioxide targets for new non-domestic buildings that delivers a 9% improvement on 2010 standards aggregated across the build mix. Again this should be seen as part

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of the next step towards zero carbon, achievable in most building types through cost effective fabric and services efficiency improvements. I can also confirm a strengthening of the minimum energy efficiency standards when specific building services work including air conditioning and lighting replacements are carried out in existing non-domestic buildings. The direct energy savings arising from these changes outweigh the costs thereby providing a net benefit to business.

I am also announcing today the decision not to proceed at this time with a strengthening of the minimum energy efficiency standards for extensions and replacement windows to existing homes. The Government has decided that this would be inconsistent with recent reforms to extend permitted development rights under the planning system and it is not the right time to impose additional costs on hard-working families trying to improve their homes. Although the revenues from energy savings from strengthening extension standards are currently insufficient on their own to cover the costs, technical innovation is expected to lead to improved cost effectiveness over time and subject to securing consumer buy in I have not ruled out the possibility of reforms to standards in the future.

Similarly, I can announce that the Government has decided not to proceed with regulation at this time for a new homes quality assurance process. The consultation response supported the principle of addressing discrepancy between design and as built energy performance but said that more evidence is needed to better understand where the problems lie before taking regulatory action. The Government is therefore supporting the Zero Carbon Hub led industry programme set up to look at the issues in more detail with a view to achieving industry’s own target that 90% of new homes should meet, or better, their design performance from 2020. The Hub has today published a progress report providing a summary of the collaborative work carried out to date and initial findings. The next stage of the project will focus on analysis of the evidence base and report on recommended priority solutions by next Spring.

On timing, I can announce that the amending regulations will be laid before Parliament shortly and the associated Impact Assessment published at the same time. Updated statutory guidance and calculation methodologies will be published during the course of this summer with the changes coming into force on 6 April 2014 giving industry enough time to prepare.

Building Regulations: Parts A and C

Statement

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): As part of the Department for Communities and Local Government’s commitment to ensuring our buildings continue to be safe and sustainable, I am setting out today further changes to the Building Regulations regime that have been overseen by my colleague the Building Regulations Minister, the Rt Hon Don Foster MP. The changes are to the statutory guidance contained in Approved Documents A (Structure) and C (Site preparation and resistance to contaminants and moisture) and will come into force on 1 October in England.

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The consultation paper issued by the Department for Communities and Local Government on 31 January last year contained a range of proposals to improve the Building Regulations regime. Following the successful introduction of the significant deregulatory measures in April this year, we are today publishing two further elements of that package, changes to the guidance in Approved Document A and Approved Document C. These changes were developed after active engagement with external partners and demonstrate the Government’s ongoing commitment to ensuring that where regulation is necessary that it remains up-to-date and fit-for-purpose.

Approved Document A provides guidance on how to meet the Building Regulation requirements for structurally safe buildings. The Approved Document published in 2004 includes references to British Standards that might be used for structural design, which the British Standards Institution replaced in 2010. The new British Standards reflect latest industry practice and adopt a new pan-European design approach referred to as the Eurocodes. The changes I am announcing today will see the guidance updated so Approved Document A refers to these new British Standards. A number of minor related changes are also made to the guidance in Approved Document A and Approved Document C.

While parts of industry have already moved over to this new design approach voluntarily, it is recognised there will be transitional costs to some in industry. That is why the consultation proposed issuing additional guidance alongside the Approved Document to minimise the impact on business. We propose to do this in two ways. First, we will make clear how, given the functional nature of the Building Regulations, use of the withdrawn British Standards remains acceptable for some time, providing industry with a number of years to adapt. Secondly, we propose to provide reassurance that engineers and Building Control might agree, subject to the requirements of the Regulations being met, continued use of the withdrawn design standards is appropriate for smaller-scale, less complex structural work for the foreseeable future, thereby avoiding the additional transitional costs. The Department is writing to building control bodies and industry setting this out.

The major change to Approved Document C relates to protection from radon gas. Exposure to radon is the second major cause of deaths from lung cancer in the

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UK. Approved Document C sets out, by reference to radon maps, where it is necessary to incorporate measures to reduce peoples’ exposure to radon. The changes we are introducing will update the guidance so as to align it with the most up-to-date radon maps. This is a sensible retargeting of existing health protection with a clear benefit to those living in higher-risk radon areas.

In addition to the changes described above, there are a number of other minor, technical changes to both Approved Documents.

I am placing the amendments to the Approved Documents, along with the Impact Assessments that accompany these changes, in the Library of the House.

Inheritance and Trustees’ Powers Bill

Statement

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): The Government is today publishing its response to the consultation on the Inheritance and Trustees’ Powers Bill.

The consultation paper sought the views of respondents on proposed reforms concerning intestacy and family provision. Respondents were asked for comments on the draft Bill and the explanatory notes, for views in relation to an additional ground of jurisdiction for family provision claims, and views on the Impact Assessment.

The overall response was supportive of the proposed reforms and did not raise any significant doubts about the accuracy of the impact assessment. Differing views were expressed over the proposed additional ground of jurisdiction and this issue is dealt with in detail in our response. Although the Government has not accepted the additional ground of jurisdiction that attracted the most support amongst consultees the Government has robust reasons for reaching the decision they have and these are detailed in the response.

The Bill itself was today introduced into the House of Lords under the special House of Lords procedure for non-controversial Law Commission Bills.