Daryl Teague: Failing building warrant system needs shake-up

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THERE is no doubt that building warrants are crucial to any build, whether it’s the smallest of works in the home or complex commercial builds and public infrastructure.

Building warrants ensure ­everyone builds to strict regulations and that safety checks are carried out. It’s illegal to start works without one – frustratingly, it’s also increasingly challenging to get one in ­Scotland’s capital.

I absolutely agree with the law surrounding building warrants. However, I believe Scotland, and in particular the Building Standards Department at the City of Edinburgh Council, needs to take a fresh look at the system. The current process isn’t working and is negatively impacting the local economy.

There is a serious delay in both registering building warrant applications and having them reviewed and approved – often with no ­reason as to why. It can easily be six months before any works can commence and this creates uncertainty within the Scottish building industry.

Many builders are delayed in starting scheduled jobs or have to ‘stop-start’ to meet the demands of building control. This creates a slowdown in the economy as purchases and jobs are stopped or delayed, or builders are forced to work unproductively. It’s happening all the time – from minor household extensions and conversions to major shop builds and residential developments that will benefit the city and its residents.

If the CEC could work to a specified timescale and be held accountable – just as everyone else is – then the system can begin to work better. Contractors and the public alike will know when they are to receive their warrants which will allow for everyone to plan accordingly. Too much importance is being placed on planning numbers and turn around (which, incidentally is also failing) with no such emphasis on the ­warrant applications themselves.

It is illegal to start works without a building warrant but the council are forcing people to either do this or wait until they get around to granting one.

I don’t blame the building control officers. I believe the Scottish Government’s cuts are undermining the system. If they invested some money on the right people in this crucial area then the economic return on investment would outweigh any saving from cutting the staff bill.

It may be time to adopt the English system which operates with great success. South of the Border, third parties can sign off building warrants allowing hard dates to be set quickly and jobs to progress on schedule.

People can have their ­renovations complete for a better home life and builders can move onto the next one, helping the economic churn. This increased ­productivity in Scotland – especially Edinburgh – would result in materials and goods being ordered more quickly and more often, therefore increasing tax receipts.

Daryl Teague is director of Glencairn Properties, ­Edinburgh.