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 657.

    So the government doesn't recognise the legislation to protect public safety and homeowners from cowboy builders? Why does the government think such legislation came about in the first place? It is beyond a staggering decision.

  • rate this

    Comment number 656.

    640 NotMeHonest

    Why ever did you vote for this lot? As you just explained?

    But you did not vote for this lot. They crept in by coalition back door not by decision of electorate. Cosy arrangement rigged up amongst themselves & to keep Westminster debacle on the rails

    Whatever way we vote, those in charge make sure they hang on to power & money by whatever means. They have no morality

  • rate this

    Comment number 655.

    Generally people build extensions because they cannot afford to move to a larger house. So why not change the level of costs, making moving more financially easier? Landlords will be flocking to add extra rooms they can extortionally rent out! Bad move by the Government all round really and it will cost them as well as the man in the street. No confidence in any political party any more!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 654.

    Open season for 'neighbours from hell' with their no idea how to build tawdry DIY efforts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 653.

    We are involved in the development 'world' providing specialist surveys when building near 'trees', hopefully the new rules will not 'dry up' are area of works........... clients are sitting on massive land banks, and will not build because the returns are not there.
    Social housing does not bring in the money for developers...

  • rate this

    Comment number 652.

    The lawyers are rubbing their hands.

    The principles of managing public space & allowing objections haven't just vanished because 'planning laws have been relaxed'.

    Utterly stupid. We will rue this in years to come. Especially the poor objector-next-door who now has to fund their own legal battles without community-funded help.

    The many have to suffer for the few = very bad policy-making.

  • rate this

    Comment number 651.

    Surely, if any smaller terraced properties are enlarged their value will go up, and take yet more "affordable" houses from the bottom end of the market, making life even more difficult for first-time buers? They are already in direct competition with buy-to-letters, so don't need anymore obstacles putting in their way.

  • Comment number 650.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 649.

    I wonder how many of the MP's who vote for this idea will be extending their own properties immediately afterwards?
    I can see this getting through purely because those responsible for making the decision can see personal financial gain in it for themselves... a shameful motive for elected government officials, but its apparently how they all seem to operate...

  • rate this

    Comment number 648.

    What an appalling idea, they really have lost the plot. Building houses that most people cant afford will only provide a handful of jobs and will destroy the landscape at a stroke. What is needed is a cut in VAT to get people spending which will in turn lead to more jobs and so more tax revenues.

  • rate this

    Comment number 647.

    Now they decide to change it!! Just after we've paid 2.5k for drawings and applications to be told our extension is too big - pah :O(

  • rate this

    Comment number 646.

    This is a very positive move made by the government. There are many people who can extend their homes to meet their requirement. In turn this should help our economy to recover faster.

    This is a common sense that people extending homes should consult their neighbours before the extention takes place.

  • rate this

    Comment number 645.

    Nice one, but it won't get them out of the hole they've dug for themselves. Blaming lack of economic activity on redtape/bureaucracy/regulation, or a similar derogatory term is not going to do anything for wealth creation. De-regulation of the finance industry after the Big Bang got us into this financial mess and it's only by kick-starting real wealth-creating business that we'll recover.

  • rate this

    Comment number 644.

    Ok a temporary rexation of the rules to add a massive 8 metre extension without having to consult anyone. So what about when the relaxation ends will it then go through the proper procedure thats in place to safeguard everyone and then demolish it .. they are utter morons!

  • rate this

    Comment number 643.

    Some people are trying to block a small supermarket development by getting English Heritage to protect an existing 1970s eye-sore. They say it will ruin the town.

    The real reason?

    They dont more outsiders coming into the town causing traffic problems.

    Back in the 1970s, some of the same people try to stop the very development they now say they want to protect.


  • rate this

    Comment number 642.

    The only extra business this will generate will be for the legal trade. As least for those that can afford it. If they want to boost the building trade surely the answer is to build council houses, addressing two problems with one stone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 641.

    In general this announcement won't do anything other than :-

    - neighbours aggro over home extensions. There is a limit on the size to prevent enjoyment / natural light etc. over adjoining property. The relaxation will no doubt encourage cowboy builders.

    - first buyer scheme - it is morally questionable to encourage young people to get over indebted through buying over priced new homes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 640.

    8 meters would double the size of many houses around here. Without planning permission? One of the worst decisions to come out of this government so far - can't believe I voted for this lot, but I won't make the same mistake twice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 639.

    This seems small scale domestic. I cannot see how filling remainder of your garden with yet another extension will revive economy?

    Nick Clegg talks about affordable homes? There are huge number of deliberately empty houses all around country. Spivs & grubby men trying to make free money hoping prices will go up, but they don't.

    These empty homes should be made available for folk to live in?

  • rate this

    Comment number 638.

    Tsk pesky planning laws, lets just get rid of them, they`re stopping people from doing what they want when they want. Oh hold on, people are struggling to put food on the table and a roof over their head as it is. Still, if push comes to shove we can always ask the banks (nicely mind) if they could lend us a few bob, that`s if they wouldn`t mind forgoing their bonuses.


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