FAQ's —

What is the Difference between Building Regulations and Planning Permission?

It is generally realised that a form of permission is required for building work or alterations of properties.  However, it may not always be clear how the Planning and Building Regulations approval regimes differ. To make things more confusing some of the terms used are similar but have different legal meanings, so if in doubt ask!

Building Regulations: set standards for the design and construction of buildings to ensure the safety and health for people in or about those buildings. They also include requirements to ensure that fuel and power is conserved and facilities are provided for people, including those with disabilities, to access and move around inside buildings.

Planning: seeks to guide the way our towns, cities and countryside develop.  This includes the use of land & buildings, the appearance of buildings, landscaping considerations, highway access and the impact that the development will have on the general environment.  Conservation areas and listed buildings also have specific requirements; please check prior to starting works.  

Useful links and guides: For more information regard your responsibilities under the Building Act 1984 and the Building Regulations 2010 follow the link below to the Governments planning Portal:


Some useful guides are also available here such as the interactive house, showing common household projects and also more detailed guides.


Why Approved Inspectors?

Approved Inspectors (AIs) are persons authorised under the Building Act 1984 to carry out building control work in England and Wales. Approved Inspectors are required to follow the Building Control Performance Standards in their working practices and adhere to the Construction Industry Council’s Code of Conduct for Approved Inspectors.

Prior to 1997 only the Local Authority could carry out building control. Approved inspectors go through a rigorous assessment process demonstrating adequate knowledge and experience in:

  • Legislation and Building Control;
  • Business Management and Professional Ethics;
  • Construction Technology and Sustainability;
  • Fire Studies;
  • Structural Design;
  • Building Services and Environmental Engineering.

The application process then has pre qualification verifications by the CICAIR, on successful completion this progresses to an admissions panel and finally a professional interview.   A very vigorous process ensuring only the highest cailbre companies gain licence approval.

http://cic.org.uk/services/approval-process.php for more details.

Benefits of using an Approved Inspector.

How does an Approved Inspector satisfy himself/herself that the construction meets the required standards?

An Approved Inspector is required by law – regulation 8 of the Building (Approved Inspectors etc.) Regulations 2010 – to take such steps as are reasonable, within the limits of professional skill and care, to ensure that regulations are met. What constitutes ‘reasonable steps’ is not specified in Part II of the Building Control Act 1984 but the Building Control Performance Standards give a guideline.  Inspections of work at identified stages are agreed at the outset by ToP Building Control with an inspection notification plan provided to the client/agent.  This should be given also to the builder once appointed.  All our Surveyors are also members of professional bodies such as the Chartered Association of Building Engineers (CABE) and abide by their code of practice additionally.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s) about Approved Inspectors (AI)?

How long have Approved Inspectors (AI’s) been around?

NHBC Building Control were the first fully operational Approved Inspector in 1985.   There are currently 87 AI’s registered to work across the UK (July 2014).  

How do you become an AI?

Construction Industry Council Approved Inspector Register (CICAIR), maintains and operates the register, the route to qualification is in 4 stages:

  • Application - this requires a detailed knowledge base to be demonstrated in Building Regulations & Statutory Control; Law; Construction Technology & Materials; Fire Studies; Foundation & Structural Engineering; Building Services & Environmental Engineering;
  • Pre-Qualification Verification - by the CICAIR registrar;
  • Admission Panel - this is the point when the applicant is considered a candidate;
  • Professional Interview - Final stage after which if successful, the applicant gains a licence for 5 years, after 5 years the process starts again!

Does the Local Authority (LA) have a role if I choose an AI?

An AI submits an initial notice on behalf of the Client in a prescribed manner to the LA, this needs to be 5 days prior to starting but up to 3 years prior, the LA confirms it’s in the prescribed form and accepts it, this is also placed on a public register for future searches. Once accepted, or 5 days has passed whichever is first; the LA generally has no further involvement; the AI is now inspecting the work and under Regulation 8 must take reasonable steps and be satisfied within the limits of professional skill and care that the works meet the Building Regulations.

What is an Initial Notice?

An Initial Notice is the legal form the AI submits the application to the LA upon, there is only one form and this covers all application types thus simplifying the process.  This makes the LA aware that the works are going on in its area and being monitored correctly by an AI.

Can the Approved Inspector give my plans formal approval?

Yes, but there are no statutory deadlines, the AI will fit in with the design team’s timescales thus providing a continuous checking service, and an AI can confirm designs meet the regulation informally by letter or officially by a plans certificate.

What is a plans certificate?

A plans certificate issued by an AI certifies the plans have been checked and comply with the Building Regulations, if this is requested a plan certificate is issued to you and a copy placed on the public register at the local Authority also.

Do I get a completion certificate at the end of the project?

Yes, you get a completion certificate called a Final Certificate when the Approved Inspector (AI) is satisfied the work has been completed to meet the Building Regulations and a copy is placed on the public register at the local Authority (LA) also.

Can Approved Inspectors offer additional services?

Yes, the core business is Building Control, but many other areas of work lend themselves to be provided quite naturally, such as fire risk assessments, energy assessments, access audits to name a few.

What about new home warranties?

Approved Inspectors can work alongside any warranty provider, most mortgage lenders require a new home to have a 10 year structural insurance warranty.
This takes you to the planning portal and a pdf list of providers with full contact details.

Will my Approved Inspector visit site and inspect the works?

Yes, an AI is obliged by law to “take such steps which may include the making of tests of building work and the taking of samples of materials as are reasonable to enable them to be satisfied within the limits of professional skill and care” to ensure that the Building Regulations are complied with. All AI’s sign up to the Building Control Performance Standards and the CIC code of conduct.   For further details see: http://cic.org.uk/services/approval-process.php

Why should I use ToP Building Control Ltd?

  1. Work with you not against you, we follow the substantive requirements of the Regulations rather than taking a prescriptive approach allowing you the flexibility to be creative yet still help you to achieve regulatory compliance;
  2. Cost effective and client friendly service;
  3. Common sense and practical solutions;
  4. Appointment times to allow you and us to plan our time better; including early am or late pm where available;
  5. Inspection notification framework provided at the start showing what and when we need to visit also listing the paperwork needed on completion at an early stage;
  6. Copy of the site inspection report provided whilst on-site;
  7. Mobile phone numbers provided for ease of contact;
  8. Online application and upload facility at www.topbc.co.uk;
  9. Email applications, hard copy paper applications, disc or pen-stick the choice is yours.
  10. SAP calculation service available, so the effect of any onsite changes to specifications can be quickly checked and a fast production of EPC on completion thus allowing sales to proceed smoothly.