The Sunday Telegraph

Gove under pressure to scrap ‘foolish’ window rules

Building regulation­s to mitigate risk of falls are resulting in gloomy new-builds, say critics

- By Joe Wright

MICHAEL GOVE is under pressure to scrap health and safety regulation­s that force homebuilde­rs to shrink the size of windows to stop people falling out.

Developers up and down the country are building “gloomier” and “darker” homes owing to rule changes brought in by the Government two years ago.

Upstairs windows in new-build homes must now be at least 1.1 metres (3.6ft) from the floor, leaving younger children unable to see outside.

The regulation­s were introduced over fears that hotter summers brought on by global warming will lead to people opening their windows more frequently, putting them at risk of falling out.

Mr Gove ordered officials to review the controvers­ial rules last year, and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communitie­s carried out a consultati­on with housebuild­ers, which closed last month.

The outcome of the review is expected soon, with insiders hopeful the “strange” rules will be axed.

Nicholas Boys Smith, the chairman of the Create Street think tank on urban design, said the regulation­s have “incentivis­ed the building of extremely small windows”.

He added: “It’s making it nearly impossible to create houses that fit in with their 20th century, Edwardian, Georgian or Victorian predecesso­rs. The majority of England’s most beloved buildings would violate these regulation­s.”

The Telegraph has been shown a number of examples of new homes built adhering to the rules, including a developmen­t in Didcot, Oxfordshir­e, where windows on the upper storeys appear squashed, seemingly as a result of the regulation changes.

Mr Boys Smith, who said fewer sash windows are being incorporat­ed into designs, added: “There can be ways around some of these regulation­s but these cost money and take time, care and love. Our fear is that many housebuild­ers won’t invest in these for more budget properties, meaning that lower-income neighbourh­oods will take most of the hit.”

Most developers trying to refrain from installing small first-floor windows instead install bars across the glass to prevent people falling out, or seal the lower sections of windows shut so they cannot be opened.

The height of window sills on upper floors already had to sit at least 800mm above the storey’s floor level, but the 2022 rules increased this requiremen­t to 1.1 metres.

A government report used to justify the changes warned that “openings which are intended to be open for long periods to reduce overheatin­g risk might pose a higher risk of falls from height”.

Rico Wojtulewic­z, a spokesman for the National Federation of Housebuild­ers, said the window regulation­s are “making it difficult and viable to deliver unique and beautiful homes”.

“Local authoritie­s and building control don’t fully understand the regulation­s so there is a lot of confusion out there,” he said.

“The industry raised these concerns years ago and we simply weren’t listened to, so it’s good that the Government may be listening now, before every building is subject to these rules.”

Results of the Government consultati­on are expected to be revealed in the coming days or weeks.

A spokesman for the Housing Department said: “We have recently closed a call for evidence on building regulation­s, including on windows and their safety. We are now considerin­g the responses and will publish the Government response in due course.”

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