BESA calls for swift resolution to building control delays

Rachel Davison, BESA

The Building Engineering Services Association has welcomed the government’s decision to head off a potential collapse of the country’s planning system, but warned that the uncertainty is undermining progress towards making buildings safer.

Building control officers in England have been granted a three-month extension to complete their competence assessments so they can continue to work under the new building safety regime. They must still register by the original 6th April deadline but now have until 6th July to complete the process.

BESA said an extension was sensible but pointed out that many of the country’s estimated 4,500 inspectors had still not started the registration process and warned “the clock is ticking”.

Inspectors must be in the process of having their competence assessed by one of the government’s approved schemes and register as a Class 1 Registered Building Inspector (RBI) by 6th April – they will then have to progress to Class 2,3, or 4 by 6th July.

The Welsh government has already extended the period for building inspectors in Wales to complete their registrations to 30th September.

The Health & Safety Executive’s Director of Building Safety Philip White has written an open letter to the construction industry explaining the actions. He said:

The Building Safety Regulator has listened to the concerns raised by the profession, it is crucial these concerns are balanced with the requirement to implement the Building Safety Act and the need to raise standards in the profession.

He stressed that the competence assessment extension of 13 weeks was not an opportunity to delay completing registration, adding: “There will be no extension to these arrangements.”

BESA’s director of specialist knowledge Rachel Davidson said:

The industry must have confidence in the planning process, otherwise we will have further project delays and cost overruns. But we also need to be progressing as quickly as possible towards a robust safety regime and that depends on having a well-resourced, verifiably competent pool of building control officers and planning officials – 13 weeks is not long so it is important to keep up the pressure and make sure everyone is registered and assessed as quickly as possible.

BESA’s Building Safety Act Advisory Group also warned that progress through the new planning ‘gateways’ introduced under the Act was already very slow. BSAAG said only small-scale refurbishment projects on existing high risk buildings were currently passing through Gateway One, while no newbuild projects have reached Gateway Two and there have been no projects presented at Gateway Three so far.

The group warned that many architects and consultants were not quoting for contracts due to nervousness about their potential design liabilities as designated ‘principal designers’ under the Act. There is also a lot of confusion around different interpretations of competence for ‘duty holders’, it said.

Rachel Davidson added:

The transition to the new regime was always going to hit bumps in the road, but that only makes it even more important that we address the current planning issue quickly, We are continually reminded that the government expects the industry to step up and work with the BSR to deliver the culture change needed to transform construction, but any progress on that front could be undermined if the planning process is not fit for purpose.

BESA has set up a Building Safety Act resource at the BESA HUB.

Find out more about the Building Safety Act at InstallerSHOW 2024 – running 25-27 June at the NEC.