Planning rules on extensions to be relaxed 'to boost economy'


Nick Clegg: "This is a big set of measures which will lead to more affordable homes"

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The government wants to get planning officers "off people's backs" with a relaxation of current rules in England.

The government will consult on allowing people, for a three-year period, to build larger extensions on houses - up to 8m long for detached homes.

Rules on shops and offices expanding and on developments having to include affordable housing will be relaxed as ministers seek to boost the economy.

But Labour says that ministers are "kidding themselves".

The proposals, it says, are "not up to the scale of the challenge" and do not address the real problem of a "lack of confidence and demand in the economy".

Affordable homes

And the Local Government Association says it is a "myth" that the planning system was stopping house-building.

Government proposals on housing-building

  • Consult on a three-year relaxation of planning rules on extending homes and business premises.
  • All householders would be able to build 6m long extensions without planning permission (it's currently 3m)
  • Removing requirements for developers to include affordable housing - if they prove they make a site "commercially unviable".
  • An extra £280m for the FirstBuy scheme to help would-be homeowners with a deposit.
  • A new bill to provide £40bn in government guarantees to underwrite major infrastructure projects and £10bn to underwrite the construction of new homes.
  • Funding of £300m to provide 15,000 affordable homes and bring 5,000 empty homes back into use.
  • A new "major infrastructure fast-track" for big projects.
  • Putting poorly performing council planning departments into "special measures" and allowing developers to bypass them if they fail to improve.

It released figures which show a backlog of 400,000 prospective homes which have planning permission but have not yet been built. It says these "conclusively prove" the planning system is not holding back development.

The coalition, which has undergone a reshuffle this week, is looking for ways to boost the economy and end the ongoing recession.

Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy PM Nick Clegg have announced that 16,500 first-time buyers are to receive help getting on the housing ladder under an extension of the FirstBuy scheme.

Under this, would-be homeowners without a deposit are given an equity loan of up to 20% of the purchase price.

Just a few months ago the government rewrote the entire planning framework for England, after fierce initial resistance from countryside campaigners.

Now ministers want further changes to planning in England in an attempt to boost house-building and revive the economy.

The announcements come as the economy continues to languish, with the recession now having lasted more than nine months. The construction sector has performed particularly badly.

Mr Cameron said: "This government means business in delivering plans to help people build new homes and kick-start the economy.

"We're determined to cut through the bureaucracy that holds us back. That starts with getting the planners off our backs, getting behind the businesses that have the ambition to expand and meeting the aspirations of families that want to buy or improve a home."

He told ITV's Daybreak developers were being held back by the "many obligations" on them to build affordable housing.


From those who usually complain the loudest about the "housing crisis" - a surprisingly positive reaction.

It's true that some business organisations would have liked to see more radical action to speed up planning.

But fresh from the battle over the national framework earlier this year, the government backed away from another full-scale confrontation. So this programme tinkers with the rules - and targets specific areas seen to be holding back the builders.

Housing associations thought the government would actually go much further, in removing the requirements to build affordable homes. They're also delighted with the extra billions for investment.

But many still say the economy, rather than government initiatives, will ultimately determine how many homes are built.

Under the government's plans, if developers can prove these requirements make a site commercially unviable, the conditions will be removed.

There will be a one month consultation on allowing homeowners and businesses, for a three-year period, to be able to build much bigger extensions without planning permission than they can at present.

The new Permitted Development Rights would make it easier to install conservatories and loft extensions without going through weeks of planning bureaucracy.

If the plans go ahead, full planning permission - required for extensions of more than three or four metres from the rear wall of any home - would only be needed for those reaching beyond 8m for detached homes and 6m for others.

Rules that restrict an extension to no more than 50% of a property's garden will remain.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles told the BBC that the extension rule changes would benefit local businesses as well as householders, as new carpets and furnishings would be needed for them.

Businesses would be able to expand shops by 100 square metres and industrial units by 200 square metres.

There will also be £300m of additional funding to provide up to 15,000 affordable homes and bring 5,000 empty homes back into use.

'Conservatories not an economic plan'

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Nick Clegg said the government was putting forward a "big set of measures" to boost house-building but accepted some of the proposals would be controversial.

"We have a real crisis. We're not employing enough people in the construction sector. The construction sector has had a really hard time of it.

"We're not building enough homes. We're not building enough affordable homes. We've got to take some of these difficult decisions - yes, even with some controversy around them - to get Britain building."

Infographic showing house and extension limits

The National Housing Federation, which represents England's housing associations, welcomed the package of measures as "a major step forward" with "the potential to transform the housing market".

"It will provide homes for some of the millions of families on waiting lists, create jobs and give the UK economy a shot in the arm with a speed and effectiveness few industries can match," the group said.

Meanwhile, Labour leader Ed Miliband and shadow chancellor Ed Balls launched an attack on the coalition's economic record and set out what they see as the start for a fundamental rethink about how a future Labour government would approach the economy.

As big a shift in thinking is needed now, Mr Miliband said, as happened after the second world war and in the late 1970s.

"Instead of a change of direction," Mr Miliband said "we get increasingly complex schemes and initiatives".

"Someone in New Labour said if you want to understand aspiration you need to understand conservatories. They were right about that.

"But a one-year holiday from the current rules on planning for a conservatory extension of up to eight metres into a garden which is what the government is announcing today, does not represent an economic plan."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 637.

    Will this apply to cardboard boxes? Mind you hopefully this will solve the problem of parents having to take gown up their kids back into the family home ... spare rooms in middle class homes having already been let out as expected by our current government! As for the grand kids, 'And the union workhouses - are they still in operation?' Now that is what this bunch ought to be building ...

  • rate this

    Comment number 636.

    Yes, it does not make sense -it will just give some temporary additional cash in with VAT (shall we say 1000Ml?). This proposal is only for house holders that have space in their land. The advantages are few and will be followed by disadvantages! The Government needs cash in urgently. This is the only reason that has driven this proposal.

  • rate this

    Comment number 635.

    This is a joke. Fed up of solutions to anecdotal problems about some minister not being able to build his extension. Try getting permission for a major development. Everyone wants housing, schools, leisure centres, but can't be done primarily because of too many single interest groups and terrible service/zero assistance from local authorities exacerbated massively by the coalition cuts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 634.

    Relax the Green Belt laws Mr Cameron and you'll lose the rural votes too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 633.

    Perhaps someone in the Cabinet wants an extension that their local council aren't too keen on.

  • rate this

    Comment number 632.

    This is excellent news!!! I have had my proposal to cut down all my trees and build all over my front & back garden REJECTED several times - finally i can butcher the useless wooden sticks and have more space for me!!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 631.

    "624.Giant Jambo
    2 Minutes ago
    Does this mean people can make 8m extension this year, and then another 8m next?"

    Thanks for that image - really funny - even it turms out to be true.

  • rate this

    Comment number 630.

    The only way the government will address the housing situation is to stop people buying 2-3 or 20 houses and then renting them out. 1 house per family should be the rule and then there are plenty houses to go round at a price that ordinary people can afford.

  • rate this

    Comment number 629.

    We could make it legal to own a gun and then our arms industry would get a boost. Make all drugs available without prescription would give our drug companies much needed help. Maybe we should make car insurance optional so that we spend more money elsewhere. See, I too can think of random nonsense policies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 628.

    They're making it up as they go along. This means more neighbour/neighbour ill-feeling and disputes, murders and suicides. If both my aggressive neighbours wish to build 6m extensions, they can just do it. Can I protest? If so, to whom? Planners? It's daft. A chap on the telly just said there are 400,000 plots with planning permission already, waiting to be built on. Posh boys with no idea.

  • rate this

    Comment number 627.

    Why don't the Goverment renovate 15,000 empty homes and build 5,000 new ones.I would rather live in a solid old home,than one of these New tissue paper,shoe boxes,any day of the week.Also what counts as "affordable",these days.

  • rate this

    Comment number 626.

    The good old diversionary tactic. Whilst people are getting worked up on this elsewhere on this site is the following :

    "The UK's economy is set to contract by 0.7% this year, according to the OECD, the club of industrialised nations.

    The prediction is a sharp revision to its earlier estimate made in May, when it forecast growth of 0.5%."

    George wouldn't want people talking about that would he.

  • rate this

    Comment number 625.

    yes when are THEY going to get it that WE the "normal people" are SKINT.

    I have been in a social housing flat for TWO years and still cant afford to buy a carpet for the bedroom.

    They say Labour Dont get it! I think the current Rich kids have no Idea how SKINT we are

  • rate this

    Comment number 624.

    I hope this only applies in England.

    Does this mean people can make 8m extension this year, and then another 8m next?

  • rate this

    Comment number 623.

    All it will do is increase animosity amongst neighbours if someone builds a monstrosity of an extension with no thought for anyone else. Wonder what the outcome would be if said extension overlooked a tory mp or councillor's garden and invaded their privacy?

  • Comment number 622.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 621.

    Let us not forget people that your house was probably built on a greenfield site. Your house is probably blocking the view of someone who previously had one.

    Time moves on, people have to live somewhere. If all decisions were left in the hands of the 'Elected Members' on Planning Committees without the option of appeal, nothing would get built.

  • rate this

    Comment number 620.

    Chucking cups of water at our recession will not do any good this recession will not go away why because i believe i hope im wrong but i believe there is a world rebalancing of wealth from west to the far east.What i think is a dying of the old west and a growing asian economy china leading the way they are allso increasing send on millatary ships and mil;atary hard ware.why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 619.

    It's not meant for us, it's meant for those who have money to make more money. Sell out britain, the boys getting richer and workers getting nothing still. Wrap it up in whatever you like this is not meant for us. We need a new government,one for all and all for one-not just the few. No more lies, no more lawyers. Everything written in the langauge from school not something you need a diplomer 4

  • rate this

    Comment number 618.

    As somebody who makes a living out of planning extensions etc, this announcement takes work away from me, thanks guys ! I cant help thinking if the existing permitted development height restrictions remain we will see a profusion of ill considered flat roof extensions being built.


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