Commencement notice problems | Does size matter?


The following opinion piece was submitted by a Registered Architect on October 31st 2014.

Opinion- Commencement notice problems (the 40 sq. metre issue)

The BRegs Blog has on a number of occasions referred to reports of Building Control Officers invalidating commencement notices, which building owners believed were perfectly valid, and acting in a fashion  which readers suggested were not supported by the legislative wordings.

This was becoming most apparent in the whole issue of whether the full measures of S.I.9  itself applied in full, or whether a reduced commencement notice submission was required.

Eight months into the workings of S.I.9, the BCMS (the content management system, and not as we were led to believe in their responses to us in May, the arbitrator of what is valid or not) have published advice on the most contentious distinction – that relating to the requirement to invoke the full S.I.9 for domestic extensions greater than 40 sq metres.

The advice is published on the BCMS site itself, as follows : –

“QUESTION: Can you clarify the circumstances in which an extension to a dwelling comes within the scope of the requirements for statutory certification under the Building Control Regulations?

ANSWER: In the case of an extension to a dwelling, the requirements for statutory certification of design and construction in line with the Building Control Regulations apply when the total extended area of the dwelling exceeds 40 square metres.   Every new dwelling has a permitted area determined by its planning permission.   Any works which extend the building by more than 40 square metres beyond this permitted area must be certified.

The regulations refer to the total extended area because separate extensions can be added to different areas of a building at the same time or different times.  It is therefore not possible to avoid certification requirements by building a series of small extensions each of which is less than 40 square metres but which together give a combined extended area greater than 40 square metres.”

There must now be real  anxiety, that based on the proposed BCMS advice, that professionals, acting in good faith, and having read the S.I.9 legislation carefully, have submitted and had validated the wrong commencement notice – and by the implications of the BCMS advice, these people now have projects under construction illegally on site!

It is reasonable to complain that it is not possible to  see any comment whatever relating to previous extensions or the like in the S.I.9 legislation.

One colleague has suggested that the Breg Blog put an open call out to readers as to whether their already submitted projects are compromised by this, and to see if we can assemble data on the matter.

Another reader has told me she cannot find  where the “regulations refer to the total extended area” and if readers can find this, or any wording in the legislation which supports the BCMS interpretation [BReg Blog Admin Team note: If readers can find this Breg Blog would be happy to publish it].

But in short, and following the BRegs post earlier in the summer, it does seem, from the point of view of the BCMS at least – that, yes SIZE MATTERS ! You may need an Assigned Certifier to build a porch !!!

No doubt Local Authorities are relishing the opportunity of using careful resources policing all of this !

Will bouncy castles be next ? Or tree houses ?

Other points of interest:

Legal Alert | Commencement Notices since 1st March 2014 

Catch 22 Commencements 

Owners may need a Certifier for a Porch?

“Dangling Participles” and why all extensions may now require compliance with S.I.9: 2014

One thought on “Commencement notice problems | Does size matter?

  1. Kevin Tyrrell

    S.I.9 states that its provisions do not apply to the following with regards to extensions : an extension to a dwelling involving a total floor area greater than 40 sq metres. Now…to me “an extension” is a singular entity. One specific object or single thing. And the crux of the matter relies heavily on this and also a few other facts relating to specificity. A commencement notice is linked to a specific Planning Application, with a specific register number and attached plans and documents. The two are intrinsically linked and the Commencement Notice refers only to the Planning Permission it is linked to. The Commencement Notice was always the mechanism by which 2 things were alerted to the County Council. 1. that it was due its contributions and any further information listed in planning conditions must be complied with and 2. that the applicant was beginning to build on site. A commencement notice is and always has been a project specific entity, and is not and never has been linked to anything else on site. The Planning Regulations have not changed or been altered in any way, so in actual fact a person can view 2 separate extensions under 40 sq metres as strictly 2 different entities, and as long as they satisfy the Planning and Development Act and Regulations then the amended Building Control Regulations should have nothing to say about them. The amended Building Control Regulations are not a commentary on Planning Regulations, they are regulations governing the Bulding Process and how it should be undertaken. The Planning and Development Regulations deal with the extension in relation to the whole house and its environment, the Building Control Regulations do not and never have. So it is intrinsically impossible in any way to have a link to anything else going on with the development in any way, because of one simple thing….A Commencement Notice is Project and Planning Permission Specific…and doesn’t and cant relate to anything else. It Stands Alone. To suggest otherwise is scare mongering…and it says nowhere in the Building Control Amendment Regulations that other extensions or a cumulative size must be taken into account. Why? Because it cant. Why? Because its Planning Permission Specific. Only Planning Regulations exist to comment on the entire development and how a specific permission relates to the whole. If its being seen otherwise then Building Control Regulations are supplanting Planning and Development Regulations.


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