Private or local authority Building Control?

7 Aug 2011
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United Kingdom
I am considering building a loft conversion myself (I have previous experience), but have never considered using a private Building Control company before. I realise that private may be more expensive, but has anyone else had dealings with these private inspectors? Is the extra cost worth it? And are they easier to deal with? My experiences with LABCs have always been good, but its just a thought.
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Private, worth the extra cost.

Easier to get hold of.

often more pragmatic, so are less of a stickler on compliance with details
As above, private; I've found that some LABC people can be pedantic on things such as thermal insulation, and some will even go sniffing around actually looking for problems to throw back at you, rather than looking for things which really matter (eg structure and fire safety). Often part of the mind-set of some officious types in the public sector.
Not saying you'd have an easy ride with an AI, but just my own experience in that they tend to be a little more realistic, particularly if you are doing it yourself.
(On a slightly different note; it has often been pointed out that the system of Approved Inspectors brings in the conflict of interest and can in practice end up as self-certification by builders. The government is currently considering this aspect following on from Grenfell, so there might be some changes to the Building Control system in the not-too-distant future).
I think some private inspector companies have too many jobs on per inspector.

One BI I was dealing with had 300 jobs to inspect. He wasnt on site for more than 3 minutes each visit -although maybe thats enough for a simple extension.

Another one of the building inspectors we deal with quite often is quite relaxed with our projects , but somebody I know has been DIYing an extension and because he doesnt know much, the same building inspector has been quite strict with him.
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Thanks for the replies. I think with LABC if you start off well they will be more relaxed once they realise you know what you're doing. I did wonder about the amount of jobs these private inspectors have to get through, but I suppose if you are happy with the standard of your own work, the main thing is they sign it off. And maybe they can't afford to be too fussy like LABC otherwise they wouldn't get the work. This has given me food for thought. Thanks again.
In Birmingham, Acivico do the BC for the council. I’m a novice and thought they’d be harsh with me. Turned out very reasonable and told me what they wanted to see each visit. Almost signed off bar a few little bits. Also come out within 24 hours after calling them. I’d certainly use the council ones again if I’m ever stupid enough to start another major project.
I've only ever used council inspectors, and after 4 fair sized projects I've never had a problem (all full-plans - I wonder if it makes a big difference?). I suspect they can see a shonky build a mile-off and focus their attention on those. I did have a foundations inspection once that lasted around 3 seconds, and when I commented on it he said "ah, when you've been doing this as long as I have, you know what you're looking for"
Where the work is straightforward (e.g. physical separation of floors – as opposed to the provision of fire suppression systems), I think it's fine to use the Local Authority. In general, I would say their level of scrutiny is slightly higher, which should mean that the overall build quality is better.

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