As an established agent of many years and an ex Building Control Officer myself I am concerned with the new changes to fee charging proposed by Wiltshire Council. I feel this is a step backwards for this authority, particularly with Approved Inspectors (independent inspectors used to assess and check building work) under-cutting local authority charges at the moment. I can see that the Building Control departments will shrink yet again as people move away in preference to independent Approved Inspectors.
The new pricing scheme basically asks for all the money up front for both the approval of plans stage as well as all the total site inspections of work being physically undertaken, – in advance. Most authorities continue to use the 2 payment stages, for example: roughly a third of the cost is paid to check and approve the plans, with the remaining two thirds of the cost paid later for the on-site inspection of work when undertaken. Many people quite often choose to start as and when they feel appropriate, they do not want to pay for on-site inspections when they may not start for some months or in some cases not at all as circumstances may change.
Potential projects and people considering building can be directly approached by mailshots gained from planning lists by independent Approved Inspectors seeking to attract business from the established local council method. It can often be too late or difficult to re-direct back to using the Local Authority system once this has happened. Certainly there will be less of an incentive for people to use the Local Authority with this sort of charging system. I am not against using Approved Inspectors at all, but I feel the local authority does give a full service and can be called upon very quickly having a full resource to fall back on, it certainly has its place. It would be a shame to see the service gradually being used less and less.
Clients have limited outlay initially before funding can be agreed and placed with their lenders, these larger up front charges are not going to help whether it be for extensions or for new build. Regular house builders, many traditionally using the N.H.B.C. will be less inclined to switch and use the local Authority’s comparable service let alone expect the full charge for inspections when they may not even start work for a year or more when the market dictates or the lender agrees.
The fee structure basis as now proposed should be reviewed with the old system of split payments retained ( the plan vetting fee and the inspection fee stages) as before. I can appreciate the council needs to be seen to be streamlining and cutting costs but this is not the way. I acknowledge councils are faced with the paperwork of sending out bills and chasing payment but I feel this is a little too far.