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act, buildings, acts, thereof, forasmuch, expedient, appointed, metropolis, construction and referees

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LATING. Provisions for regulating the construction of buildings are gene rally introduced into acts for the improve ment of towns. To permit houses of wood or thatched roofs in confined and crowded streets, would be to sacrifice the public welfare to the caprice or conveni ence of individuals. There is no general measure ensuring uniformity of regula tions for buildings throughout the coun try. In the session of 1841 the Marquis of Normanby, then a member of the go vernment, brought in a bill "for the better Drainage and Improvement of Buildings in large Towns and Villages," but it did not pass ; and a bill of a similar nature was unsuccessful in the session of the fol lowing year. In the session of 1844, however, an act was passed (7 & 8 Vict. c. 84) entitled An Act for Regulating the Construction and the Use of Build ings in the Metropolis and its Neighbour hood; and this measure, though applica ble at present only to London, promises to be an important step towards improv ing the condition of large towns, and with certain modifications it will probably be extended to other places. The act came into operation on the 1st of January, 1845. London has had Building Acts ever since the reign of Queen Anne ; but their object was chiefly to enforce regulations calcu lated to check the spread of fire. The last Building Act, commonly called Sir Robert Taylor's Act (14 Geo. III. c. 78), was passed in 1774, " for the further and better regulation of buildings and party walls, and for the more effectually pre venting mischiefs by fire." It extended to the cities of London and Westminster, and their liberties and other places within the bills of mortality, and to the parishes of St. Marylebone, Paddington, St. Pan cras, and St. Luke's, Chelsea. The ad ministration of the act was confided to district surveyors, each of whom had in dependent authority within his own dis trict; but the magistrate at the nearest police-office might enforce or not, at his own discretion, the decisions of the sur veyor. The technical regulations of this act were many of them, generally speak ing, of so impracticable a nature that their evasion was connived at by the officers appointed to superintend the exe cation of the law; and it did nothing to discourage the erection of imperfect build ings in districts which have become a part of the metropolis since it was passed. Whether the new act (7 & 8 Vict. c. 84) contains regulations equally impractica ble remains to be seen. Some of them probably are of this nature, as may be expected in attempts to legislate on techni cal matters of detail ; but the object of the act is excellent, and any defects in carry ing it out may be corrected without much difficulty. The removal of sources of danger and disease in crowded neigh bourhoods, by enforcing ventilation and drainage, and by other means, is in itself both wise and benevolent. The window tax will prove, in several respects, a great impediment to theact being fully carried out.

The objects of the Metropolitan Build ings Act may be gathered from the pre amble, which is as follows :—" Whereas by the several acts mentioned in schedule (A.)* to this Act annexed provisions are made for regulating the construction of buildings in the metropolis, and the neigh bourhood thereof, within certain limits therein set forth; but ffirasmuch as build ings have since been extended in nearly continuous lines or streets far beyond such limits, so that they do not now in clude all the places to which the provi sions of such acts, according to the pur poses thereof, ought to apply, and more over such provisions require alteration and amendment, it is expedient to extead such limits, and otherwise to amend such acts: and forasmuch as in many partts of the metropolis and the neighbourhood thereof the drainage of the houses is so imperfect as to endanger the health of the inhabitants, it is expedient to make provision for facilitating and promoting the improvement of such drainage ; and forasmuch as by reason of the narrowness of streets, lanes, and alleys, and the want of a thoroughfare in many places, the due ventilation of crowded neighbour hoods is often impeded, and the health of the inhabitants thereby endangered, and from the close contiguity of the opposite houses the risk of accident by fire is ex tended, it is expedient to make provision with regard to the streets and other ways of the metropolis for securing a sufficient width thereof: and forasmuch as many buildings and parts of buildings unfit for dwellings are used for that purpose, whereby disease is engendered, fostered, and propagated, it is expedient to dis courage and prohibit such use thereof: and forasmuch as by the carrying on in populous neighbourhoods of certain works, in which materials of an explosive or in flammable kind are used, the risk of acci dents arising from such works is much i increased, it is expedient to regulate not only the construction of the buildings in which such dangerous works are carried on, but also to provide for the same being carried on in buildings at safe distances from other buildings which are used either for habitation or for trade in popu lous neighbourhoods : and forasmuch as by the carrying on of certain works of a noisome kind, or in which deleterious materials are used, or deleterious pro ducts are created, the health and comfort of the inhabitants are extensively im paired and endangered, it is expedient to make provision for the adoption of all such expedients as either have been or shall be devised for carrying on such businesses, so as to render them as little noisome or deleterious as possible to the inhabitants of the neighbourhood; and if there be no such expedients, or if such expedients be not available in a sufficient degree, then for the carrying on of such noisome and unwholesome businesses at safer distances from other buildings used for habitation: and forasmuch as great diversity of practice has obtained among the officers appointed in pursuance of the said acts to superintend the execution thereof in the several districts to which such acts apply, and the means at present provided for determining the numerous matters in question which constantly arise tend to promote such diversity, to increase the expense, and to retard the operations of persons engaged in building, it is ex pedient to make further provision for regulating the office of surveyor of such several districts, and to provide for the , appointment of officers to superintend the execution of this Act throughout all the districts to which it is to apply, and also to determine sundry matters in question incident thereto, as well as to exercise in certain cases, and under certain checks and control, a discretion in the relaxation of the fixed rules, where the strict ob servance thereof is impracticable, or would defeat the object of this Act, or would needlessly affect with injury the course and operation of this branch of business : now for all the several purposes above mentioned, and for the purpose of consolidating the provisions of the law relating to the construction and the use of buildings in the metropolis and its neighbourhood, be it enacted," The principal officers appointed to carry the act into effect are two Official Referees, a Registrar of Metropolitan Buildings, and Surveyors. The immediate superin

tendence of buildings is confided by the act to the surveyors, who are appointed for each district by the court of aldermen in the city, and by the justices at quarter sessions for other parts of the district. In all cases of dispute or difficulty the offi cial referees appointed by the Secretary of State and the Commissioners of Woods and Forests will determine the matter, in stead of the appeal being to the police magistrates, as was formerly the case. The official referees are also empowered to modify technical rules. The registrar, who is appointed by the Commissioners of Woods and Forests, is required to keep a record of all matters referred to the offi cial referees and to preserve all docu ments connected with their proceedings.

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