Upgrades keep officials busy at Building Control

THE Building Control department at Larne Borough Council has been dealing with a significant increase in refurbishment applications.

Building notice cases more than doubled from 69 to 147 in the past year and the number of regularisation certificates soared from just 18 to 111, largely due to social housing refurbishment schemes. The trend helped to boost income to £97,878 in the six months April-October, compared with £94,3812 in the same period last year.

The rise contrasts with a continuing decline in full applications for new builds since the property crash. Officers recorded a 22 per cent decrease year-on-year and told councillors there would be an impact on fee income over the next 18 months.

“Income levels are higher than anticipated for the reported period due to the significant application numbers for building notices and regularisations,” officers reported to the council’s environment committee.

“In contrast, plan fees are lower than estimated. This will result in a lower anticipated income with regard to inspection fees in the forthcoming 12 months,” the report added.

Officials predicted that application volumes will continue to fluctuate, but also pointed out: “The Larne borough would not appear to have been subjected to the continual reduction in applications experienced elsewhere in the province. This maintains a meaningful workload base, albeit subject to some fluctuation.”

Larne Building Control officials carried out fewer inspections in the reporting period than was the case a year ago – 1,650 compared with 1,900. “Inspection numbers have reduced on the previous year due to increased awareness among staff of the need to implement services efficiencies,” stated the report to Council.

“The number of discretionary inspections has reduced, with focus placed on visits at key inspection stages,” it added.

The rate of approvals dropped from 21 per cent to 15 per cent. Councillors were told this was “to be expected” given the ever-increasing complexity of building regulations. “Architects are becoming more reliant on Building Control staff to provide explanation and interpretation of technical standards, in order to ensure design approval,” the report stated.