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"

Related Stories

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."


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 617.

    Didn't anyone wonder why the planning rules were formulated in the first place? It wasn't for no reason. Buildings should be designed so that, over their lifetime they fit sympathetically with their environment, don't deleteriously affect neighbours' properties and rights etc. Are they now saying that none of this matters? Are they saying they don't mind if a locality tends towards a shanty town?

  • rate this

    Comment number 616.

    Infrastructure investment is pretty much pointless the Obama administration has tried it 3 times investing $800 million at the last attempt with little or no effect on economic growth.

  • rate this

    Comment number 615.

    Wonder if they'll be getting a glut of hideous extensions to spoil Chipping Norton?

  • rate this

    Comment number 614.

    Im 30, live with my parents still and earn just below the national average. Even though I have a sizeable deposit I think house prices are way way too over priced to begin with. I'm waiting for the proper housing price correction. And if it doesn't come? Well at least i'll have a decent spare amount of money to do with as i please... which will most probably lead me to emigrating

  • rate this

    Comment number 613.

    593. Dontcallmedave has hit the nail on the head. It's only the planning permission. The building regulations part can be a pain as well. The government needs to put more thought in this. Put in place some sort of an online guide or qualifying criteria to guide people interested in extending properties.

  • rate this

    Comment number 612.

    This show's just how out of touch this government really is... when people are struggling to put fuel in their cars or food on the table they still think we all have lots of cash to spend thousands on property improvements and extensions!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 611.

    What have we done to deserve this clueless bunch of self serving MP's? This change in law will not effect Clegg, Cameron or Fallon! But those ordinary little people in semi's and terraces. There are some individuals and cultures which will ride roughshod over their neighbours and create disputes where there would not have been any. Tories just don't get it! This has to be most arrogant bunch ever

  • rate this

    Comment number 610.

    If you want to understand how barmy ideas like this become policy, watch the thick of it this saturday. there was an episode in series 1 where an advisor has to make up a policy in a taxi on the way to a press conference. I think that might be where this idea came from.

  • rate this

    Comment number 609.

    The real problem...

    10 million don't get a basic living wage (JRF)

    12% of top 275,000 earners pay, tax evasion and avoidance would top up those on min wage to a living wage and bring them into the economy and boost local High Streets by £100 billion per year.

    When will the penny drop the problem is Greed higher up and a failure to understand economics?

  • rate this

    Comment number 608.

    Most of the builders that I know spent 10 years coining it in as everyone used the equity in their houses to build extensions. With work coming out of their ears they have been charging £200 a day for semi-skilled labour + £100 a day for their labourer. Biggest problem they had was hiding as much as they could from the tax man.

    Are these really the people who can kick start our economy?

  • rate this

    Comment number 607.

    Plan A in tatters, Localism in tatters, NHS in tatters, Education in tatters, Planning law in tatters, Upper House Reform in tatters, Deficit reduction in tatters, coalition in tatters, Really inspires confidence in this government!

  • rate this

    Comment number 606.

    To be honest, I don't see the problem. Your are allowed UP TO a "limit" of 8m, assuming all other criteria on the Permitted Development rights are satisfactory. It's not "build whatever you want". All the rants here seem to be by people that have absolutely no clue of this.

    Having said this, I perfectly agree with people saying there are better ways to kick-start the industry. eg: VAT discount.

  • rate this

    Comment number 605.

    @555. eddy

    I agree easy credit was also a problem, and rampant speculation. But the fact also remains there is a massive property shortage, because we haven't built enything in the last 15 years. Either way, we agree its overpriced. Restriced building and easy credit has been a mechanism for the older generation to take money from the younger, in terms of huge rents and huge borrowing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 604.

    No, actually, could you repeat that? I still don’t get it. So the ailing construction industry, the one lead weight on our otherwise perfect George Osbourne-piloted rocket-ship of an economy will be brought back to life by 8 metre extensions? Oh, sorry, £3million in donations. I must have misheard you again. My mistake.

  • rate this

    Comment number 603.

    The naivety of the present administration astounds me.
    These changes will cause all sorts of conflicts and chaos, but will make little difference to the fundamentals, which are finance and the change in occupational patterns.
    Increasing the income multiple by banks was crazy and needs to be reversed to reduce prices and multiple home ownership needs to be discouraged.

  • rate this

    Comment number 602.

    Relaxed planning regulations my foot. Free for all for gerry builders and cowboys is going to be the outcome and 70000 new slum dwellings unfit for human habitation. RIBA recently observed the drop in quality and space in new homes, especially in Yorkshire. It has taken me 5yrs to rebuild my 'executive' new home and correct poor workmanship & materials. NHBRC seems to guarantee c**p standards.

  • rate this

    Comment number 601.

    Things really are getting desperate. Either the planning rules are right, if so then waiving them for three years is outrageous or they are wrong, in which case change them permanently.

  • rate this

    Comment number 600.

    Any decent VAT registered builder is booked months or even years in advance so this can only be bonanza time for the cowboys and a lot of it cash.

  • rate this

    Comment number 599.

    not good for builders
    people will still have to submit building regulations and pay for council inspections, people only saving on eight week wait for planning permission, if government want's to boost building and help us legitimate builders they should cut vat on extensions to 0% the same as on new builds.

  • rate this

    Comment number 598.

    The only positive I can take from this is Nick looks totally fed up and he is wearing a red tie.


Page 30 of 60


More Politics stories



Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.