Building regulations applied to low impact development

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A number of small scale projects utilising low impact development practices have been successfully implemented throughout the UK. With a recognised housing crisis in the UK and the need to tackle the impact of global warming, applied on a larger scale, these methods could form part of a national solution.
Fairlie (1996, p.xiii) states “a low impact development is one that, through its low negative environmental impact, either enhances or does not significantly diminish environmental quality” and The Baker Associates report (2004) includes within its definition “the use of building materials which are reused and/or locally derived”.
Historically the most significant obstacle to low impact development has been the difficulty in obtaining planning permission. The Welsh government have integrated low impact development into the planning system and the first large scale project (9 dwellings) was approved in 2009. Due to their approved legal status this was one of the first times that low impact development and the requirements of the building regulations system had come into direct contact. A dispute arose between a number of developer/residents and the local council building control department. This resulted in the council taking legal action against a number of residents for non-compliance with the building regulations.
This disagreement was investigated (McIver, 2014) in an attempt to find the root causes of the dispute. “It was concluded that the dispute predominantly arose not only due to a lack of appropriate knowledge and experience amongst Lammas residents and the council but also due to the fundamentally different approaches adopted by these parties. The research showed that it was the approach both parties took to the application of the Building Regulations which gave rise to the conflict rather than any fundamental schism between low impact construction techniques and the Building Regulations” (McIver, 2014, p.i).
This conclusion indicated that properly managed and with good communication between the parties, compliance with building regulation should not hinder future low impact development. To facilitate the smooth running of future developments it was recommended that low impact developers work along building regulations professionals to provide documented methods that have been implemented and approved under the building regulations. Effectively an ‘approved document’ that building regulations inspectors can refer to with confidence when assessing methods of compliance that are unfamiliar to them.

The full report together with other relevant material can be found at
Baker Associates (2006) Low Impact Development – Further Research. [internet]. Baker Associates, Bristol. Available from < > [Accessed 02 August 2016].
Fairlie, S. (1996) Low Impact Development, Planning and People in a Sustainable Countryside. Jon Carpenter, Charlbury.


DISCLAIMER: This article is for general information only and not intended as advice. Each project has its own set of unique circumstances, all potential issues should be investigated by a surveyor on a case by case basis before making any decision.

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