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Frequently asked questions

What are the Building Regulations?

The Building Regulations are legal requirements aimed at achieving minimum standards of health and safety of people in and around buildings, the conservation of fuel and power and access for people with disabilities. The regulations cover a comprehensive range of issues including:  structural stability, fire safety, moisture resistance, sound insulation, drainage, thermal insulation and more.

Is planning permission the same as Building Control?

No. People are sometimes confused by the need to obtain two separate approvals.  In general terms:

  • The planning system helps to ensure that development takes place in the public interest, in economically, socially and environmentally sustainable ways. It has a major impact on how local neighbourhoods look, feel and function. For more information on planning issues contact our Development Management Team
  • Building Control ensures that buildings are constructed properly and in accordance with current standards and regulations.

For building work, two separate applications are sometimes necessary because you may require both Building Regulation approval and Planning Permission. The vast majority of building work requires Building Regulation approval, with only a small amount of minor works and structures being exempt.

Why should I use Building Control?

You are required by law to have your building work inspected to ensure that it complies with the minimum standards of the Building Regulations. Failure to obtain Building Regulation consent may result in enforcement action. Failure to obtain building regulations approval can also cause problems when you sell your property.

What are the charges for Building Control?

Our Building Control service is non profit making.  The fees are set only to cover our costs. None of the burden falls on the council taxpayer.  For further information see our fees calculator.

Can you recommend a builder or tradesman?

No. As an independent checking authority we are unable to recommend builders or tradesmen. However advice can be found on homeowners page under "Choosing the right builder".

If problems arise during the progress of the works our surveyors will do their best to help find solutions and will be happy to offer advice to both you and your builder. However the Building Control service is not responsible as a designer or a warranty provider. If the building work fails to meet your needs or expectations your redress should be against your builder. For this reason you should take great care in selecting a builder who is reliable and who is still likely to be in business if you have problems two or three years in the future.

Can you recommend an architect/structural engineer?

No, as an independent checking authority we are unable to recommend professional people.  We suggest you contact the appropriate professional body, such as Royal Institute of British Architects, Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors and
Institution of Structural Engineers.

What are the Approved Documents?

The Approved Documents provide guidance on the Building Regulations.  These documents tend to be quite lengthy but are user friendly and are intended to assist everyone involved with building work.  The documents are divided into different parts recognisable by a prefix A to P.  For example Part A deals with structure, part B with fire safety etc.  The Approved Documents can be downloaded from our commercial projects designed for professionals.

What are my obligations under the Party Wall etc Act 1996?

The Party Wall etc Act 1996
provides a framework for preventing and resolving disputes in relation to party walls, boundary walls and excavations near neighbouring buildings. Anyone intending to carry out the following work must give adjoining owners notice of their intentions:

  • Work on an existing wall or structure shared with another property
  • Building a freestanding wall or a wall of a building up to or astride the boundary with a neighbouring property
  • Excavating near a neighbouring building

The council cannot advise about general party wall issues but the Building Control Service Manager as 'Appointing Officer' under the Act can appoint a third surveyor where two surveyors cannot agree.  This is our only role.

What is the Gas Safe Register?

The Gas Safe Register is the official list of gas engineers who are qualified to work safely and legally on gas appliances. Check to see if your engineer is on the Gas Safe Register now. 

What is a Competent Persons Scheme?

Competent Persons Schemes were introduced by the government to allow individuals and enterprises to self-certify that their work complies with the building regulations as an alternative to submitting a building regulations application.

The individual or enterprise must be registered with a government recognised Competent Persons Scheme before they can self-certify building work.  If they are not registered with a government recognised scheme they must submit a building regulations application.

A Competent Person must be registered with a scheme that has been approved by The Department for Communities and Local Government. Search the Department for Communities and Local Government website for authorised schemes.

What happens when the work is complete?

It is important to request an inspection when the building work is complete.  We will issue a Completion Certificate only if:

  • we have been asked to inspect all relevant stages of work, and
  • the work fully complies with the building regulations and any necessary paperwork has been finalised

Failure to obtain a Completion Certificate may delay or adversely affect the future sale of the property.

Do I need building regulations consent to install a wood burning stove?

The installations of solid fuel, wood and biomass appliances and systems are subject to the requirements of building regulations and must be notified to the relevant Local Authority Building Control department by law.

However HETAS, the official body recognised by the government, employ registered installers who can self-certify their work, avoiding the need for a Building Notice application. For more information visit the HETAS website.

Do I need building regulations consent to install solar and photovoltaic panels?

Yes. A building regulations application is required to install solar or photovoltaic panels on a roof. We will need to consider the increased load on the roof, the electrical installation and any connection to the existing heating system.

Do I need building regulations consent for a loft conversion?

Yes. All loft conversions require approval under the building regulations.  The application must be submitted before commencing work. Loft conversions can be very complex and the design needs to consider:

  • Structural stability
  • Fire safety including escape route, fire resistance/protection and smoke detection
  • A compliant stairway giving access to the new loft storey
  • Thermal insulation
  • Sound insulation
  • Ventilation
  • Weather resistance

Because loft conversions can be complex we strongly recommend a Full Plans building regulations application for this work.

How deep should I dig my foundations?

There is no simple answer to this question.  Ground conditions in North Somerset vary considerably and include sands, clays and rock all of which have different requirements.  Complications also arise when building near drains or trees.

Many recent housing developments have been built on special types of foundations such as piles or rafts.  If you are extending such a house, the extension should be built off similar foundations in order to avoid differential settlement.

If I want to install or replace electric wiring and equipment - will the building regulations apply?

Yes, but some small types of work do not require permission. From 1 January 2005 all electrical work in dwellings will need to comply with Part P of the building regulations and be carried out by a competent person.

Small jobs such as replacing a socket-outlet or a light switch on an existing circuit will not need to be notified to a building control body (although there will be some exceptions for high risk areas such as kitchens and bathrooms).

All work that involves adding a new circuit to a dwelling, or electrical work in kitchens and bathrooms or in 'special locations' will need to be either notified to Building Control with a Building Regulation application, or carried out by a competent person who is registered with a Part P Self-Certification Scheme.

The two routes to compliance are detailed below:

Part P Self Certification Scheme (Competent Persons Scheme)

If the electrical work is carried out by an electrician who is a member of a government recognised Competent Persons Scheme, a building regulation application will not be required for the electrical work. The electrician will certify that their work complies with the building regulations and issue the owner with a building regulations self certification certificate. The Competent Persons Scheme will then notify the Local Authority to enable them to retain records of all such work.

Building regulations application - if this route is chosen there are two options:

  • A qualified, registered electrician carries out or inspects the work. They can issue a design, installation and test certificate under BS7671. Building Control will accept the certificate as evidence that the work complies with Part P. Additional inspections and tests by Building Control may be carried out.
  • Where the work is carried out by an unregistered electrician or is a DIY installation, Building Control will need to inspect and test the work to ensure it complies with Part P. There will be an additional charge for this work.

If you are having electrical work carried out to your dwelling we would strongly recommend the use of an electrician who is a member of a Competent Persons Scheme.


  • Special locations referred to above include fixed garden lighting or power installations (including ponds), swimming pools, electric floor heating systems, hot air saunas and locations containing a shower basin or bath tub.
  • Electrical work in garages and garden sheds will also come under the remit of Part P as will photovoltaic solar panels and domestic wind turbines. 
  • Persons registered with Part P Self-Certification Schemes will be fully qualified electrical contractors with the ability design, install and thoroughly check a circuit for safety. They will be able to issue building regulations certificates of compliance.