The Government announced national standards for new homes in March this year alongside the enactment of the Deregulation Act 2015. The Ministerial Statement accompanying the Act explained that tougher Building Regulations requirements will make it unnecessary to apply the Code for Sustainable Homes in a planning context. The Act withdraws authorities’ powers to impose conditions requiring energy efficiency standards above Building Regulations requirements (which are themselves moving towards the 2007 goal of zero carbon homes by 2016). The new regime introduces ‘optional’ Building Regulations (Regs+) requirements (known as the new National Technical Standards) that authorities can chose to apply to new permissions.

The policy in the Ministerial Statement includes a requirement that:

From the date the Deregulation Bill 2015 is given Royal Assent, local planning authorities and qualifying bodies preparing neighbourhood plans should not set in their emerging Local Plans, neighbourhood plans, or supplementary planning documents, any additional local technical standards or requirements relating to the construction, internal layout or performance of new dwellings. This includes any policy requiring any level of the Code for Sustainable Homes to be achieved by new development; the government has now withdrawn the code, aside from the management of legacy cases.

This has understandably led to suggestions that the Code ‘no longer exists’ for new planning applications.

In fact, the law allowing authorities to impose Regs+ requirements are unlikely to come into effect until late 2016 (when the enhanced Building Regs are expected to be in effect).

The transitional provisions buried in the Ministerial Statement are therefore important – they make it clear that as a matter of national policy:

  • authorities can continue to apply code style energy efficiency conditions, as long as they are based on local plan policies and do not exceed Code 4, until the new Building Regulations requirements come into effect in 2016;
  • existing policies on access, internal space and water efficiency can only be reflected in new planning conditions – after September 2016 – where consistent with the National Technical Standards. The standards can then only be applied where there is a ‘relevant’ Local Plan policy. …