Building and Planning regulations in some form or another have been in existence in the Britain since 1189. They were first introduced in London mainly to address the danger of fire, but also to address other problems caused by a densely packed population living in poor housing, such as sewage. Thatched roofs were banned in 1212 following a major fire in London and slowly other cities followed suit, with ʻviewersʼ appointed (usually masons and carpenters) to inspect buildings. However, despite the regulations which advocated the use of stone, brick and slate, rather than thatch, by the end of the Middle Ages towns and cities were characterised by tall flammable timber framed and jettied houses overhanging narrow streets.

The disaster of the Great Fire of London in 1666 resulted in real enforceable legislation, The London Building Act 1667 specified that houses should be built in brick or stone. The number of storeys, width of wall and width of streets were also prescribed. The planning and building regulation systems as we know today had been born.

The early to mid 20th century saw the introduction of more legislation as issues of overcrowding, urban sprawl and safety came to the fore, most notably the Town and Country Planning Act 1947, which began to address these concerns and which also included the provision for listing buildings of architectural and historical interest. Subsequently recognition of areas of special architectural or historic interest produced the Civil Amenities Act 1967 that resulted, amongst other things, in the formation of Conservation Areas.  Public demand for access to the countryside including the mass trespass of Kinder Scout in the Peak District, lead to the designation of National Parks in 1951.

The first set of national building standards were introduced as the Building Regulations 1965 and were a set of prescriptive building standards that had to be followed. However, in the 1980’s, in response to the increasing specialisation and development in construction, these became based upon a set of ‘Approved Documents’ providing a guide for compliance where other construction methods could be offered provided the standards set out in the legislation were met.

Since then concerns about sustainability and specifically energy use in construction have driven further updates to the Building Regulations. However, sadly, fire still plays its part, where the tragedy at Grenfell Tower prompted an independent review of the Building Regulations and of fire safety, resulting in recommendations for a ‘robust regulatory system for the future’ where, at time of writing, the nature of reform to the system is still to be decided by Government.

Pictured, 15 Fore Street c.1578

A typical late medieval gable-ended house, one room wide, three rooms deep, with an independent passage providing access to one side. The frontage to 15 Fore Street was rebuilt in 1578 and has become a prominent landmark in the centre of Taunton. It is originally said to have been the town house of the Portman family – the current owners of the property.

The main body of the building has seen many previous uses and is currently part occupied by Cafe Nero, an Italian coffee house chain. Previous incarnations have included a shop and a public house, and in the 1980’s part of the building became subsumed into a shopping centre immediately to its rear.

Our work comprised the overhaul and repair of much of the building’s fabric including measures to improve fire safety to bring more of the building back into use.