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 677.

    Does this mean the under 25s can now have 2 cardboard boxes to live in when they cant afford to rent or buy?

  • rate this

    Comment number 676.

    Sounds like a measure to help well off property owning individuals in detached properties….. who will no longer need to have regard for their neighbours feelings.

    I wonder what % might be traditional tory voters.

  • rate this

    Comment number 675.

    I have planning permission for an extension and quotes for building it. The 20% VAT in the quotes, however, stops me from doing it. Get rid of the VAT (or halve it) and that will provide a kick start for construction up and down the country. The planning laws aren't the problem - it's the tax.

  • rate this

    Comment number 674.

    Government announcements like this are confirmation of the fact that cash for access is indeed the next big scandal for UK politics.

  • rate this

    Comment number 673.

    Desperate stuff grasping at straws and to make believe they are doing something

    Getting our stolen money back, not house extensions, is what should be done

    But that touches on a raw nerve. There are many amongst this misgovernment who trousered huge sums by the banking theft

    Try lifting a Tory MP up by his ankles. Give him a good shaking. Piles of money will drop on the pavement

  • rate this

    Comment number 672.

    So the government's big plan to get us out of recession is... Build houses, but not affordable ones.. Given that no-one can get a mortgage at the moment, how exactly is this going to work? Surely construction isnt the only industry in this country?

  • rate this

    Comment number 671.

    The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer
    fact is we are getting rodgered by cameron/osborne rich boys who dont give a flying fig about us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 670.

    and this is going to boost the economy how? utter drivel, how about addressing the real story of a chronic lack of housing in the rented sector, the complete lack of regulation which lays that market open to severe abuse and ever escalating rents due to greedy landlords and manipulative accommodation agents who see 'a gap in the market' as no one can get a mortgage to buy a home.

  • rate this

    Comment number 669.

    How about excluding London and the South East from these plans? Stimulate growth that isn't London centric and stop the South East turning into a giant bland housing estate with gridlocked roads and crowded schools?

  • rate this

    Comment number 668.

    Why does the government pretend they have power to change local planning ? Local government controls this issue. They look at the government paper, say "very nice" and carry on doing their own thing. There are enough housing extensions and conservatories stuck in local planning departments to re-launch the UK economy. Give home owners the freedom to develop their own properties !

  • rate this

    Comment number 667.

    People can already build extensions without planning permission so all this does is allow them to build a slightly bigger one.

    I can't see what all the fuss is about.

  • rate this

    Comment number 666.

    this is open door policy for cowboy builders and poor building extentions to be blunt it will create more problems than its worth.
    if this government were indeed interested in kickstarting the ecconomy by building it needs to get things built on this reduce vat on supplies and reduce overseas labour.

  • rate this

    Comment number 665.

    Great news. This will make it much easier for all the banking execs to extend their houses.
    As for the rest of us .... I'm not sure that we will have the money to pay the money for the work and to get the economy growing again. I don't expect that we'll have the money to pay for the enhanced value of the extended houses owned by the execs, either.

  • rate this

    Comment number 664.

    578, I totally agree. A builder bulldozed an empty pub and put up 10 semis in double quick time near to me over 2 years ago. I think they might have sold 2 but the rest appear to be empty with for sale or rent signs outside them on a regular basis. Presumably the asking price or rent is way to high but rather than lower the price and get people in they'd rather have them empty.

  • rate this

    Comment number 663.

    Sounds like the Government has run out of ideas & is desperate to try anything & everything to try & stop the juggernaut of the recession. It's like Peeing in the wind Mr Cameron & Co...

  • rate this

    Comment number 662.

    There appears to be very relaxed planning laws in Dubai and that place is a complete mess of unfinished towering eyesores all crammed together, I dread to think what monstrosities are going to pop up !

  • rate this

    Comment number 661.

    There was an article in the Sunday Times that said self builders are being hit with new building taxes to fund 'affordable housing' (£500 psqm + in some places) thus making a once affordable self build er, unaffordable.

    Nice one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 660.

    So the owner of the house next door to my friend, who has already been prosecuted for building without permission, who has submitted endless proposals for fitting a gallon of bricks and mortar into a pint pot of garden and been turned down with very good reason by the council, will now have a free hand to do as he likes?

    Eight metres in a small suburban back garden is excessive.

  • rate this

    Comment number 659.

    How will this help the economy ? People cant afford the price .

  • rate this

    Comment number 658.

    good step forward ! and labour blabla should be ignored!


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