Architecture : What can I expect from the building regulations process?

Do I need approval?

Before changing a building, you must first find out if you need permission to do this. However, if going through a competent person scheme, this is not required. Remember that building regulations approval is not the same as planning permission. However, both may be required.

What kind of work is covered by building regulations?

For most alternation projects, building regulations approval is most likely to be required. Especially for the following:

  • Fuse box replacement and electrics connected
  • Installing plumbing or a bathroom
  • Electrical work in bathrooms
  • Air conditioning installation
  • Window and door replacement
  • Replacing pitched or flat roofs
  • Replacing or installing any kind of heating system. Or adding additional radiators

Please note that this list is not exhaustive. So always ensure that you have researched your project before commencing it.

Are there any penalties or problems associated with the building regulations process?

If you have not informed the relevant bodies, your builder could be fined and prosecuted. And the local authority could make you pay for the work to be rectified. In either case, if you decide to sell your home in the future, you may struggle as you won’t be able to produce relevant certificates of compliance.

When don’t I need approval?

If the work is not covered by building regulations, you do not require prior approval. This also applies to people that are part of the competent person scheme.

What kind of work does not require approval?

  • Most types of maintenance work (excluding heating systems, oil tanks, fuse boxes and new windows)
  • Changes to electrics (except electrics near baths and showers)
  • Replacing bathroom suites with the same suite

If you are unsure about whether you require approval, be sure to contact a relevant building control body.

Who is a ‘competent person’?

A competent person is a tradesman who can carry out a job and no approval is required beforehand. Even if you do not require approval beforehand, your tradesman must meet both safety and energy efficiency criteria.

What is the competent person scheme?

Competent people are verified to carry out certain works to the required standard. This means that prior approval from building regulations is not necessary.

What are the advantages of hiring a competent person?

Any certified competent person can self-certify their work, meaning that no approval is necessary. Moreover, any problems such as objections, can be dealt with directly. They are capable of working on your behalf with local authorities. And all work is certified, which comes in useful when selling your home. Another reason why a competent person should be considered is that they are fully insured. So if a problem with the work did occur, you can rest assured that it would be dealt with.

How can I find a competent person in my area?

Competent persons are listed on the Competent Persons Register. Alternatively, if you are looking for an electrician, check the Electrical Competent Person Register.

How can I apply?

In England, you will need to contact a building control body to check building regulations or apply for approval.

Where can I apply?

2 different types of building control body exist: Local authority BCBs or Private BCBs. To apply through the local authority route, contact your local council who will be able to help. If you go down the private route, you will need to find a private approved inspector.

What kind of application do I need to make?

Full plan: This is the most thorough route and a decision will be received within 5 weeks or 2 months, after contacting you.

Building notice: This application is only for small projects and the work can be started 2 days after the notice has been submitted.

Regularisation: This is for work that can be carried out without consent being required. Further changes may need to be made before the regularisation certificate is issued successfully.

How much will it cost?

For most local authorities, fees are based on the cost of the work. E.g. for a site inspection. However, the cost can vary based on type of work required, number of dwellings in building and total floor area.

What’s involved with appeals and determinations?

If you believe that your project does not need to comply with building regulations, you have a right to appeal. This is in the form of a ‘determination’ if you have been refused permission and feel that the decision is unfair.

I do not think I need to comply. What do I need to do?

You can always ask the local authority to relax a regulation, if you feel that it is not necessary. However, if local authority still persist, a further appeal can be made to the government.

If you have gone down the private route for BCB, you will need to approach your local authority to relax the regulation instead.

What should I do if buildings regulation approval is refused by the BCB?

You will need to apply for a ‘determination’, which is a decision made by government. This is done when you believe your plans do comply but your local authority are disagreeing.

What do I need to do to get a determination?

You will need to fill in a form and guidance notes. A fee is required upon submission.


In this article, we have looked at the buildings regulation process. We have outlined situations when approval from a local authority or private body is or isn’t required. We have outlined the competent persons scheme. And we mention how to apply for approval. Finally, if you are unhappy with the decision made by the local authority or private body, you can make an appeal to your local authority. And if this is unsuccessful, this can be taken to government for a second opinion.

Do you need support with the buildings regulation process?

Contact Phoenix Design Management today and see how we can help you.


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