Building consultancy frequently asked questions

What is the difference between a Full Plans application and a Building Notice?

A Building Regulation Full Plans application is where plans, detailed specifications, and if appropriate, structural calculations are submitted to the council. These are checked to make sure that they meet the regulation requirements and if necessary you will be asked to give more information or to alter the plans. Advice and assistance is available to help you meet the requirements of the regulations. When your submission is satisfactory formal approval is given. In many cases it is possible for us to issue a Conditional Approval, leaving some items to be dealt with at a later date. Again full advice and assistance is available. In rare circumstances plans cannot be approved and a Notice of Rejection will be issued detailing the items of non-compliance.

We will let you know of our decision within a maximum of five weeks (or two months if you request an extension of time to allow more information to be covered). When works on site start you can be sure that, provided you build in accordance with the approved plans, the works will comply with the Building Regulations. Naturally you can submit revised plans if you need to depart from your original proposals.

A Building Notice is a written notice that you intend to carry out building work and does not normally mean that you have to submit detailed drawings. More information may sometimes be requested by the Building Control Surveyor to ensure that your work is in line with the regulations.

A Building Notice is more appropriate for minor residential alterations and/or extensions. No formal approval of plans is given and the work is assessed mainly through site inspection. As no prior approval is given you must be confident that the work undertaken on site will comply or you risk having to correct it at the request of the council.

You may commence work 48 hours after giving the Building Notice, although you must tell the Building Control Officer when the work is being done to enable inspections to be carried out (please see the section - When does the council inspect works on site?).

N.B. A Building Notice cannot be used where the building is to be put to a designated use such as offices, shops, hotels, boarding houses or certain types of factory. Furthermore, the option to submit a Building Notice is not available for buildings, extensions or underpinning that will be within 3 metres of a public sewer.

N.B. A Full Plans approval or a Building Notice does not grant a Town Planning consent which is, as previously mentioned, an entirely separate process. It is always your responsibility to ensure that you have sought and obtained the correct consents. If you are uncertain about any procedures please do not hesitate to ask us.

Can I draw my own plans?

Yes, provided that you are confident that you are able to produce accurate scale drawings and detailed building specifications. If you do not feel confident to do this it may be better to employ a professional person to act as your agent to prepare the application for you. It is also worthwhile considering having professional drawings and specifications prepared if you intend to use them as a basis for obtaining builders estimates and as your contract drawings.

How much does it cost?

There is a charge payable except for works specifically to improve access or provide some facilities for persons with disabilities. The charges are made to cover the cost of checking the plans and carrying out the site inspections. A separate guidance note is available detailing the current Building Regulation charges and when such payments are due. You may also calculate the charges applicable to your project by using the fee calculator. Unless the correct payment is made, an application cannot be accepted. Inspection charges are always payable before a Completion Certificate can be issued.

When does the Council inspect works on site?

By law, the Building Control Officer must be told when the work reaches each of the following stages. The officer will then need to inspect your works.

  • Commencement (48 hours before commencing)
  • Excavation for foundations (24 hours before concreting)
  • Foundation concrete (24 hours before covering)
  • Oversight prior to concrete (24 hours before covering)
  • Damp proof courses (24 hours before covering)
  • Drains (24 hours before covering)
  • Drains and Soil & Vent Pipes testing (not more than 5 days after completion)
  • Occupation before completion (not more than 5 days before occupation)
  • Completion (not more than 5 days after completion)

Please note that not all of the above stages are applicable to every building project.

The period of time in brackets is the amount of notice that a person undertaking the works is legally obliged to give the council. Despite the above legal timescales it is normal practice that inspection requests received before 10:00 AM will be inspected on a same day service basis. For a same day inspection your email request must reach us by 09:30am. In order for this level of service to be provided it is vital that you or your builder is able to provide full details of the site, the inspection stage reached and the Building Regulation Application Number. Without the application number a same day inspection cannot be guaranteed.

It is normal practice for other intermediate inspections to be carried out, for example to inspect structural steelwork, thermal and sound insulation and floor/roof timbers. An inspection at pre-plaster stage is often able to cover many of the additional, intermediate inspection requirements.

When telephoning in an inspection request please ensure that you obtain the call request number and note this for your own records. This provides proof of your request.

To ensure that we are able to provide all our customers with the highest level of service and are able to maintain a same day inspection service it is vital that we keep all wasted journeys to a minimum. Please ensure that you advise us as soon as possible if a pre-booked inspection is no longer required.

Site log

At the time of commencement of work your Building Control Surveyor will issue you with a 'site log'. This will explain the inspection process and the obligations upon your builder and also on yourself as owner. Many factors have a possible effect upon the successful outcome of a project. Having regard to the complexity of your project, the ground conditions, the knowledge that the surveyor has of your builder and any other factors having a bearing upon the outcome of the project your Building Control Surveyor will itemise all the stages at which he considers an inspection is required. Assuming that all required inspections are requested and the results are satisfactory your project will receive a Completion Certificate at the end of the project.

A particular advantage of the Site Log is that both the owner and the builder are fully informed of all that is expected of them in respect of the work on site.

Do I get a Completion Certificate when the works are finished?

Yes. If you have requested the required inspections as identified on your site-log, a completion inspection shows the works to be and the inspection charge has been paid, you will receive a Completion Certificate within 7 days of the final inspection.

Why do I need a Completion Certificate?

A Completion Certificate is evidence that the works have, so far as can be reasonably ascertained, been carried out in accordance with the Building Regulations. Any future sale of your property may be difficult or the process delayed if works that required Building Regulation Approval have not been issued with a Completion Certificate. Your Completion Certificate will be required by solicitors acting for any prospective purchaser and will form part of the proposed home buyers pack. It is advisable to ensure that a Completion Certificate has been issued before making final payment to your builder.

Is it possible to regularise Unauthorised Works?

Yes. Under certain circumstances the owner of a property may apply to "regularise" works that were carried out without consent. Please refer to the information about unauthorised works.

When the Building Control Surveyor visits the site they talk to the builder but not me - why?

The majority of our clients do prefer us to deal directly with the builder, however we always welcome the involvement of the owner in these discussions so if you would like to be involved, please make your wishes known to the Building Control Surveyor. An ideal time to do this is at the first inspection stage when the surveyor will be able to explain the whole Building Regulation process to you in more detail. If you wish to have a confidential discussion with the Building Control Surveyor at any stage, please ask (or make a separate arrangement by telephone or e-mail) and we will be happy to oblige.

What if things go wrong?

Problems do sometimes occur during even the most well managed project. Building Control Surveyors do their best to help find solutions, and will be happy to offer advice to both you and your builder. Ultimately however the Building Control service is not a warranty organisation and if the building work fails to meet your needs or expectations your redress would be against your builder. For this reason you should take great care in selecting a builder who is reliable and who has a sound business. See 'choosing a builder'.

Is a Completion Certificate the same as a guarantee or warranty?

No. The Completion Certificate simply confirms that, as far as the Borough Council have been able to ascertain, the work on-site complies with the current Building Regulations. This means that inspections will have been carried out at the appropriate times, and that any problems found were put right. Unfortunately, at the present time the Borough Council are unable to provide a guarantee or warranty on the work. If you are buying a new or altered property, always make sure your solicitor checks that a Completion Certificate has been issued for any relevant work that may have been carried out. Remember that if, following your purchase it becomes evident that work has been carried out in contravention of the Building Regulations you (as new owner) may be required to carry out remedial works or even to remove completely any offending work.

If you do not check plans on Building Notice submissions why are the charges the same as for Full Plans Applications?

As no plan check is made, additional reliance is placed on the inspection stage of the process to ensure the Building Regulations are complied with. Inspections tend to be more numerous and to take longer than those associated with a Full Plans application. Thus the work involved is broadly the same as for a Full Plans application.

If I make a Building Notice application, will the Building Control Surveyor tell me how to carry out the work during his first visit?

Whilst we are always willing offer help and advice you should not expect to use the Building Control Surveyor as a substitute for an architect or designer.

If you intend to submit a Building Notice you should be confident that you (or your builder) are fully conversant with the requirements of the Building Regulations and general good building practices. If this is not the case then we would strongly advise that you do not use a Building Notice application.

Do we get value for money?

The Borough Council employs experienced and professional Building Control Surveyors to deal with your application. They have a wealth of local knowledge and experience. Our officers spend a considerable amount of time checking your plans, advising on how to comply with the Regulations and, in particular, carrying out regular site inspection visits. Remember that the charge is fixed no matter how complex your application may be. As many inspection visits as the Building Control Surveyor feels necessary will be made, whether that is 1 or 100. We are easy to contact, (by email, mobile telephone or through the normal office telephone) Inspections can be booked though any of these routes or through the website. Expert advice is always available and above all we believe very strongly that we are working for you as the owner of the property to ensure that your building works comply as far as possible with all aspects of the Regulations. If you compare our charges with those of calling out a professional surveyor just once or twice, we think you will agree that they are, in fact, more reasonable than they at first appear.

How long are plans valid for?

When plans are approved, the work must start within 3 years (from the date of approval of the application). If works are not commenced within this period a new application must be submitted.

How long does the application process take?

Our aim is to check all applications within 10 - 15 days, however there is a period of 5 weeks with a further extension (if agreed) of up to 2 months by which point a decision must have been made.

Does Building Regulation Approval mean that my building work is insured?

No.

Have my neighbours the right to object to my plans under the Building Regulations?

No. Under the Building Regulations, adjoining owners have no rights of objection.

What happens if my builder fails to give the required notices?

You are in contravention of the Building Regulations. You may be asked to open up works, which means lost time and money and the possibility of having to do work again. The inspection service that we offer should not affect the progress of your work so there really is no reason for your builder to fail to call us to inspect.

Does the approval of plans permit me to build on or over the boundary onto my neighbour's property?

No. Building Control is not responsible for establishing boundaries between properties. If your neighbour builds on or over your boundary, we suggest that you discuss the matter with them. If you are not able to resolve the situation, we suggest you take legal advice. Of particular relevance is the Party Wall etc.. Act 1996

If I have any problems who do I turn to?

Prevention is better, cheaper and less stressful than cure. If you think you may have any problems then do not hesitate to contact Building Control Services for advice. Even if your problem relates to an area outside our control we may be able to assist you to find the right advice. Remember we are here to help!

Is there any documentation I should keep?

Yes. it is advisable to keep your Full Plans Approval and Completion Certificates for the work that has been carried out. These are as important as the original deeds of the property. Without them you will find it difficult to complete a sale of your property at anytime in the future. It can be compared to trying to sell a car without a valid M.O.T certificate. You should also keep builders invoices, warranties etc. and copies of as built plans. These are always useful in the event of problems of future alterations and extensions.

Who can I expect to make site visits?

The Building Control Section is split into 2 teams. Each team has their own area of the Borough. Sometimes (holidays, sickness, etc.) surveyors will make site visits in other areas. If the site visit is to inspect electrical work they may be accompanied by an electrician. At commencement stage your surveyor will provide you and/or your builder with full contact details.

All of the surveyors carry a photo identity card. If you have any concerns please call us on the phone numbers listed on the contact us page.