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 697.

    I don't believe this has anything to do with economy. It seems like they're using the economy as an excuse to implement a measure that takes away a little bit more power from local government.

    I'm disgusted at Nick Clegg (again) for going along with this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 696.

    681 -yes of course building regs will still be needed. also these easment are only upto 6/8 meters there are still regulations in place for how far away from the rear boundry you will need to be, what proportion of garden space may be taken up, whether single or double height extension would be allowed, what proportion of the original property size.etc. what drama people really!

  • rate this

    Comment number 695.

    The ultimate political divide and rule tactic - set neighbour against neighbour.
    Brilliant - not a problem, if you have a country estate...

  • rate this

    Comment number 694.

    668 Andy

    'give homeowners the freedom to develop their own properties.'

    And to hell with everybody else. A few years ago my dad's neighbours built a garage without permission. As well as blocking all the light from the living room it was up to the boundary and meant they couldn't open the car door if they parked on their own drive. The council got it removed. Welcome to Dave's Brave New World.

  • rate this

    Comment number 693.

    Watch out for the most appalling extensions in gardens near you, swiftly followed by parking wars as owners start converting their suburban semis into houses of multiple occupation.

    We need responsible, well designed social housing. But, of course, that would reduce the value of MP's (and their friend's) property portfolios.

    Are we heading for shanty towns and high security gated communities?

  • rate this

    Comment number 692.

    How can making properties bigger and therefore less affordable bring more affordable housing into the housing stock?? If you want a bigger house buy one. They are coming down in price as I type this. The price gap between your house and a bigger one is shrinking.

    Me? I'm a chartered surveyor in the residential sector who would like to know which maniac is behind these proposals.

  • rate this

    Comment number 691.

    Cameron: "Boost the construction industry, George."

    Osborne: "But that would mean spending money which we'll need to borrow - makes our economic strategy look bad when the borrowing figures get published"

    Cameron: "Good point; can't be seen to be moving to 'Plan B'! Encourage investment from the private sector"

    Osborne: "But they don't have money either..."

    Cameron: "Shhh..."

  • rate this

    Comment number 690.

    A Tory voter for most of my life, with a second choice of Liberal, so who do I vote for at the next election because neither of these parties are looking after middle England. The labour party had thirteen years and drove the economy into the ground.
    This change to the planning act is gross stupidity and will allow the 'cowboys' to go berswerk!

  • rate this

    Comment number 689.

    Dave and Co's latest wheeze is to pin the recession on the 'dither' of planning permission when it was, firstly, the banks' greed that did for us and now their refusal to lend (despite how many billions of Merv's money?)
    A breezy jaunt around a building site won't change the uncomfortable fact that the cash to buy the houses just isn't there. Until wealth is fairly distributed, we're in trouble.

  • rate this

    Comment number 688.

    Many extensions are held up or not approved because they don’t meet with building regulations. This seems a pretty good way for unscrupulous builders to put in low tenders knowing full well that they will be able to get away with doing unsafe work, to the detriment of good builders.

  • rate this

    Comment number 687.

    So what is happening in Scotland and Wales, where there are different planning laws

  • rate this

    Comment number 686.

    There is loads of land in the UK that already has planning permission, but because of the recession, developers are just sitting on it and waiting for property prices to rise again to maximise their profit.

    As for affordable homes for people not living off the state or able to get a key sector worker property, houses will continue to be unafordable no matter how many they build.

  • rate this

    Comment number 685.

    This is a really positive and great policy by the government. This will help local people get the extensions they want by removing the costs and delays associated with obtaining planning permission. Well done!!.

  • rate this

    Comment number 684.

    I can see a U-turn coming up once the implications of these ridiculous plans are realised.I can also picture dodgy landlords rubbing their hands in glee at the extra tenants they can fit into these extensions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 683.

    Would the medieval hill town of Italy and France have been better for some red tape? -- I think the clue is in the fact that these towns are medieval and built before there was any red tape.

    Does Anne Hathaway's cottage not break modern regulations in every room? -- Of course it does, it is not a modern building, having been built some 500 years ago.

  • rate this

    Comment number 682.

    How many of these politicians live in terraced or semi-detached houses? They obviously have no idea of the impact on a neighbour if an overly obtrusive extension is built out next door casting a gloomy darkness both inside and outside. In many cases the new upper limit will double the depth of a property. Selfish neighbours and cowboy builders will be rejoycing, but plenty more will suffer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 681.

    Does anyone know if Building Regs will still be needed - as these are terrible and a nightmare to get through?

  • rate this

    Comment number 680.

    A 25% requirement for affordable housing doesn't help! Cut that and give some those that require a house paid for by the state* jobs in construction.

    *I accept there are many valid requirements for it, and it is a wonderful thing to so many in need, but I cannot abide the idle!

  • rate this

    Comment number 679.

    How to ***s off your neighbours:
    Exercise 1 - plant row of leylandii next to their fence
    Exercise 2 - build Frankenstein cardboard monstrosity next to their fence
    Coming soon to a garden near you!!!
    Great stuff

  • rate this

    Comment number 678.

    @516.happy dayz
    "Very pleased... can't wait to get building... got a big gardern... hate not able extend more then 3 meters or have too keep going to the planning office, wasting time, money that could have been spent on the build... great news... very pleased to get the planning officers off my back."

    To hell with the neighbours & everyone else eh?

    Good luck in court. May it be very expensive.


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