FAQs

If you cannot find your answer here please contact us and we will help to answer your query.

Do I need approval…

...to demolish a building?

The Council has powers to enable it to control aspects of the demolition of all buildings or structures within the district, except those that are exempt from such control:

  • buildings having an external size of less than 50m3 (this volume is less than the average double garage)
  • extensions on a larger building that consists of an attached conservatory, shed or garage
  • buildings used solely as agricultural buildings and
  • work in occupied buildings where it is intended that it should continue to be occupied.

Anyone intending to demolish a building is, in most instances, required to serve a Notice on the Council under Section 80 of the Building Act 1984. The Notice should be accompanied by a location plan.

We will then consult with the relevant parties and where appropriate consent to demolish will be issued together with any conditions, which must be complied with when the demolition is carried out.

It may also be necessary to obtain consent under the Town and Country Planning Act before the building is demolished.

...to build a conservatory?

If all of the following conditions are met, no. Otherwise, yes. Conservatories attached to domestic dwellings are exempt from the Building Regulations providing:

  • the internal floor area does not exceed 30m²
  • the roof is transparent or translucent (polycarbonate or similar material which allows light to pass through)
  • the conservatory is constructed at ground floor level
  • the conservatory is separated from the rest of the dwelling by a doors and/or windows and
  • glass in critical locations is safety glass. “Critical locations” means up to 1,500mm from floor level in doors and side panels, and up to 800mm from floor level in windows.

...to build a detached domestic garage?

No, providing the garage does not exceed 30m, does not contain habitable accommodation

  • is at least one metre from the boundary of the property or
  • is built substantially of non-combustible material.

...to build a porch?

A porch is exempt if:

  • the floor area does not exceed 30m
  • a door is retained between the porch and the rest of the house
  • there is no drainage within the porch and
  • glazing below 800mm in windows and 1,500mm in doors and sidelights is safety glazing.

You should also ensure that a porch does not cover outlets to boilers or other flues as well as the only ventilation openings to WC’s and other rooms.

...to build an attached domestic garage?

Yes, irrespective of size. The fee for a garage under 40m in internal floor area is less than that for one between 40 and 60m. An attached garage over 60m is classed as an extension, and the Building Regulations fee is based on the floor area.

...to build an extension to my house?

Yes, you will need to make either a Full Plans or Building Notice application. A conservatory and/or porch may be exempt.

...for internal alterations?

Dwelling

Yes, if the alterations are structural (removal or part removal of load bearing wall or chimney breast) or alterations to the drainage system or alterations which affect means of escape in case in fire.

Shop, office or other workplace

Yes. The Council will also consult with the Fire Authority.

...to convert my house into flats?

Yes, even where internal alterations and/or extensions may not be intended. This is a “material change of use” as defined in the Regulations.

...to put rooms in the roof space?

Yes. Whatever the intended purpose of the room(s), it will be necessary to make a Full Plans or Building Notice application. Often the nature of these works is quite complex and requires the deposit of structural calculations and a complete assessment of the provisions for means of escape. It is, therefore, highly recommended that you use the Full Plans procedure.

...for a swimming pool?

An external swimming pool, not covered by any structure, is exempt. However, caution should be exercised when siting it close to an existing structure. A swimming pool within an existing or proposed structure requires Building Regulations approval. Consent to discharge water from any swimming pool must be sought from the relevant Water Authority.

...for repairs?

No, not if the repairs are of a minor nature, e.g. replacing the felt to a flat roof, repointing brickwork, replacing floorboards. Although the height of boundary walls may be restricted under the Town and Country Planning Act. Please consult the Planning Service for further advice.

If the repair work is major in nature, like removing a substantial part of a wall and rebuilding it, or underpinning a building and in the case of re-tiling, the tiles are the same type, then no approval is needed. If the new tiling or roofing material is substantially heavier or lighter than the existing material, or if the roof is to be thatched where previously it was not, then an approval under Building Regulations is probably required. Similarly if you propose to re-roof (take away the old roof structure and replace it) then consent will be required.

...to convert all/part of my shop/office to a flat or house?

Yes, even where internal alterations and/or extensions may not be intended. This is a “material change of use” as defined in the Regulations.

...to fit replacement windows?

Yes. Regulations apply to replacement windows but not to the replacement of broken glass only. You should check with your installer to ensure that he is registered with FENSA if so, the installer can self certify compliance with the Regulations.

If you propose to do the works yourself or if your installer is not registered, then you or he must make an application for replacement windows.

...to install, alter or replace my shop front?

Yes. Take care that you do not make the accessibility of your shop less suitable for disabled people.

Are Building Inspections free?

No. A fee is payable for all inspections undertaken and following submission of a Full Plans application an invoice will be raised which will cover all inspections made by us. With Building Notice applications the fee for inspections is paid on deposit.

What are the Building Regulations?

The building regulations are legal requirements that apply to building work and are aimed at achieving minimum standards of construction to ensure the health and safety of people in or around buildings.

Who do I contact if I have a concern over a dangerous structure?

Building Control Officers have powers to deal with unsafe structures. If it is a building site please contact the Health and Safety Executive; if not, please contact Building Control.

Do I need approval to install or replace wiring?

Yes. Please see the section below on electrical works.

Do my neighbours have the right to object to what is proposed in my Buildings Regulations application?

No. While there is no requirement in the Building Regulations for you to consult your neighbours, it may be courteous to do so. Objections may be raised under other legislation, particularly if your proposal is subject to approval under the Town and Country Planning Acts.

What happens if I do work without approval?

The local authority has to see that building work complies with the Regulations. If the work does not comply, you may be asked to alter or remove it. If you fail to do this, the local authority may serve a notice requiring you to do so.

If you have already completed work without approval it is possible to gain retrospective approval by making a Regularisation Application. In order to gain approval you will need to provide all the necessary information and where requested destructive investigations may be needed to enable the surveyor to assess whether the building complies.

Do I need approval to carry out electrical works?

Yes. If you are carrying out works to one of the following property/land types:

  • Dwellings
  • Common parts of a building serving one or more dwellings (Excluding power supply to lifts)
  • Buildings that receive electricity from a source located within or shared from a dwelling
  • A garden or in land associated with a building where the electricity is from a source located within or shared with a dwelling and the works consist of one of the following:
    • All work that involves adding a new circuit to a dwelling
    • Extra low voltage lighting installations, other than pre-assembled, CE-marked lighting sets
    • Electric floor or ceiling heating systems
    • Solar photovoltaic (PV) power supply systems
    • Small scale generators such as MicroCHP (combined heat and power) units
    • Garden lighting or power installations
    • Extension to the electrical system (separate circuit) to small detached buildings (sheds etc)

Plus the following work when carried out in a kitchen or special location:

  • Adding lighting points (light fittings and switches) to an existing circuit in a special location
  • Adding socket-outlets and fused spurs to an existing ring or radial circuit
  • Installing or upgrading main or supplementary equipotential bonding (earth bonding)
  • Special locations and installations include:
    • Locations containing a bath tub or shower basin
    • Swimming pools or paddling pools
    • Hot air saunas

Building Regulation approval - is that the same as Planning Permission?

No! – there is a big difference. When you make a Planning Application, our colleagues in the Town Planning Division look carefully at issues like the appearance of the building and the effect it will have on adjoining properties etc. You will not however be asked for the nitty-gritty details about how your building will be constructed – things like foundations, floors, roof and walls etc

These detailed constructional issues are dealt with under the Building Regulations for which a completely separate Building Regulation application is needed.

So I need to apply separately for Planning Permission and Building Regulation consent?

In most cases yes, but depending on your particular project you may need only Planning Permission, only Building Regulations consent, neither or both – even we sometimes get confused! If you are in anyway unsure which you need to apply for, please ask us for a preliminary enquiry form, which will guide you through the details you need to provide us with. Once we receive your completed form we will confirm in writing if an application is needed, and if so, what you need to apply for.

So how do I make a Building Regulations application?

Surprisingly perhaps, there are several different types of application you can make and you can pick the one you prefer. The vast majority of our applicants use either a Full Plans Application or a Building Notice and, as you would expect, there are advantages and disadavantages to both.

Building Control Charges seem high - why?

From April 1 1999 the Council has set the charges for Building Control work in accordance with legislation from Central Government. The Building Control service is required to cover all its costs from income (none of the burden can fall on the council taxpayer) so we have to set charge levels accordingly. Please compare our charges with those of other providers. When you take into account the level of service offered, I think you will find them very competitive.

What do we get for our money?

Elmbridge Borough Council employs experienced and professional Building Control Officers to deal with your application who between them have a wealth of local knowledge. 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 difficult your application may be to deal with and covers you for as many inspection visits as the Building Control Officer feels necessary – be that 1 or 100. We are easy to contact, give expert advice and respond the same day for inspection requests received before 10am – few other organisations can offer that level of service. If you compare our charges with those of calling out a professional surveyor just once or twice I hope you will agree that they are, in fact, more reasonable than perhaps they first appear.

If you do not check plans on a Building Notice applications, 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. This translates into a requirement for either more inspections being necessary, or the inspections made taking longer than would be the case with a Full Plans application, hence the total cost is the same.

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

No – while we are always willing to offer help and advice you should not expect to use the Building Control Officer as a substitute for an architect or designer. If you are not confident that you (or your builder) are fully conversant with the requirements of the regulations then we would strongly advise you not to use a Building Notice application.

Can the Building Control Officer recommend a suitable builder?

We are afraid not. Your Building Control Officer is required to be completely impartial in his dealings with any builder or client and this would obviously not be possible if he/she were in the position of recommending one builder ahead of another. We are well aware of the difficulties involved in finding a good builder however and hope that recent Government initiatives on controlling the ‘Cowboy Builder’ will lead to us being able to offer more assistance in the future.

For the time being we would recommend that you :-

1. Choose an established builder and ask to talk to previous clients – ask if they were happy with the work, was it started and completed on time and was the final bill in line with the estimate. A builder with a reputation to preserve is more likely to be around if you have problems later.

2. Never choose a builder on the basis of a low estimate alone. Good builders who refuse to cut corners will seldom be able to compete on price with those that do.

3. Avoid builders who offer VAT free deals in return for cash payments. A builder who will fiddle the taxman will probably not think twice about fiddling you as well !

4. Be clear from the outset exactly what you want the builder to do and then stick to it – changing your mind too often will probably prove expensive.

5. Try to agree a simple contract with your builder – the vast majority of smaller work is carried out without the benefit of any written contract at all. Try to get as much as possible in writing, for example :-

  • Exactly what is included in the estimate (or preferably quotation
  • When will work start and how long will it take
  • What payments will the builder expect from you before the works are finished
  • On what basis you will want to agree any increase in cost (before the money is spent)
  • What arrangements will the builder make for your safety and convenience as works proceed.
  • Is the builder properly insured.

6. When the works are completed to the satisfaction of your Building Control Officer you will be sent a ‘Completion Certificate’. We recommend that you do not make the final payment to your builder until you have the certificate, but try to agree this with your builder at the outset (see 5 above). Completion certificates are becoming increasingly important and it is likely that you will have difficulty selling your property in the future without one.

How many copies of drawings do I have to supply?

Generally the forms, plans and details should be deposited in duplicate. However, should the scheme involve a workplace (for which fire precautions and Means of Escape in Case of Fire are required by Building Regulations), then two extra copies of those drawings showing the necessary provision should be submitted. This is to enable consultation with the Fire Brigade’s Fire Safety Officers to be undertaken. In the event of site work on such projects deviating from the original approved design, further copies “as built” drawings must then be submitted to us.

Don’t forget to provide an Ordnance Survey extract or other site plan to a scale of 1:1250 so we can locate your site.

Regularisation Certificates

Introduced into the Building Regulations in 1994 this facility enables us to certify that unauthorised work, (i.e. extensions or alterations undertaken without reference to a Building Control Surveyor) carried out since 1985 is to an acceptable standard. A request for Regularisation is to be accompanied by the appropriate payment and any supporting technical information as is available to you. We will investigate the matter and this may entail you exposing as much of the work as necessary for us to be convinced of its suitability. Unless we are satisfied that the work was in compliance with the Building Regulations the Regularisation Certificate will not be issued. You will be given the opportunity to undertake remedial work in order to obtain the certificate. The procedure does not remove our powers to take enforcement action should we find it necessary to ensure your safety.

When can the building notice procedure be used?

This procedure may be used as an alternative to full plans except where the work involves building over or near a public sewer or the building is a workplace. Therefore, any building work carried out to create or alter a shop, hotel, factory or office or other workplace can only be carried out after a “Full Plans” submission has been made.

How does the building notice work?

Before you start work you must submit the “Building Notice” form with the appropriate payment and as much supporting information as you have available to the Building Control Surveyor. It is helpful, and sometimes a requirement, for you to submit a scaled site plan showing the property and the site of the proposed building work. If the work includes new drainage, the site plan should show that it is practical and whether the building work is to be constructed over an existing drain or sewer.

Can I drop the number of my house and replace it with a name?

No. The number is part of your address and will be incorporated in your property deeds. You can however add a house name (often called an alias).

My house is numbered 13 - can I change it to 11A or 12A?

No. The Council cannot change numbers that have been assigned.

Do I have the right to a house name of my choosing?

Technically yes, but in conjunction with Royal Mail we will strongly persuade you to avoid a name that is similar to other house names in the vicinity which may otherwise cause mail to be mis-delivered and visitors to go to the wrong property.

How do I change the name of my house?

Applications need to be made in writing (letter, fax or email) to Building Control giving the current address of the property and the proposed name.

Is there any software to help me prepare plans for Building Control?

Yes. One which we like is from a company called Building Regs 4 Plans. The website is: www.buildingregs4plans.co.uk

There will be others too.