Difference between local authority and private building control

You have two choices when it comes to appointing a building control inspectorate for your home extension; local authority building control and private building control (also referred to approved inspectors). The difference between local authority and private building control is quite nuanced and one could reasonably argue the pros and cons one way or the other.  Based on experience, here are the differences as I see them.

Firstly, both will be suitably qualified to undertake the role. They will have completed building-related studies to degree-level or equivalent and in many cases will also be accredited with the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) or the Chartered Institute of Building Engineers (CIBE)[1]. In addition they will both have accumulated expert knowledge during the course of study and work.

Both local authority and private building control will consider the same three types of building control application (full application, building notice and regularisation), meaning you can pick either to carry out the inspections for your extension. They both essentially work in the same way, where they check plans prior to works commencing, physically inspect during works, advise any changes as necessary to ensure compliance, before re-inspecting the job prior to signing the project off.

Furthermore, both are subject to waxing and waning busy periods that can affect their availability and responsiveness.

The differences between local authority and private building control however are many. The first difference is that of cost. Local authority building control are not-for-profit, whereas as approved inspectors are privately-owned businesses working for profit. This usually (but not always) means that private inspectors are a little more expensive than at their local authority counterparts.

This cost premium does come with advantages however. For one, private inspectors are generally regarded as being more responsive than the local authority. Since the success of private inspectors relies on efficiency of turnaround, it serves their interest to be nimble in their day-to-day movements and will often attend site with less than 24 hour’s notice. They are inclined to work harder on account of it being their own business, because they are only ever as good as their last inspection. Similarly, their geographic area of coverage is wider than that of a local authority inspector, who are tied to administering a defined geographic area[2].

Where a builder enjoys an established relationship with a private inspector can be both a good and bad thing. distinct advantage. On one side, there will be inherent trust in the relationship, which can cultivate more flexibility[3] in construction methods to achieve the required standards and a pragmatic approach to problem-solving. On the other hand one must be mindful that such flexibility doesn’t transmute to ‘light-touch’ inspecting; after all the Inspector is there to serve your best interest, and not to make their own all the builder’s life easier.

The final difference between local authority and private building control is of personnel. When is the local authority is appointed, your job is assigned to the department rather than to an individual. This means you may not have the same inspector attend every visit and instead the inspector who is available at that particular time will attend. In contrast privately, you will have a named individual attending your job from start to finish.

Overall in the grander scheme of things, the difference between local authority and private building control are of little material consequence to your home extension. What’s more important is to keep in mind the fact that the inspector is there to serve your interests by ensuring that works are completed as they need to be. So be sure to appoint building control yourself rather than via your Architect or Builder, as a means of connecting their inspections with your best interest.

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