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 757.

    Crikey..The Government should change the name of their party to the "Conservatories" methinks.......

  • rate this

    Comment number 756.

    l have one big question, who is this going to help? the only people who can afford to extend or build new properties are those at the top end of society these days, so how is this supposed to help us normal people?

    yet again l feel they are grasping at straws with no clue, just like the Olympics was supposed to help the economy.. this will have no impact whatsoever.

  • rate this

    Comment number 755.

    Need to distinguish between planning permission and building regs. Building regs put another 7 grand on the cost of a project so obviously did not bother doing it.

    License for unscrupulous landlords to knock up shanty town accommodation and rip off the poor - again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 754.

    Who advises the government on such proposals . It's a recipe for disaster . It will create over development and encourage shoddy building . This will not kick start the construction industry . What is lacking is confidence . No one is going to extend or buy a new house if they are in danger of losing their job .Builders aren't going to build if there's no buyers etc etc .

  • Comment number 753.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 752.

    If the government wanted to kick start the building trade then pumping money into upgrading/renovating existing hospitals/schools etc would solve that ( without PFI ), this farcical move will cause no amount of problems, building up to neighbour's boundaries, blocking light, views etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 751.

    The gardens on the housing estate where I live are small. If some uncaring and inconsiderate neighbour decided to have an extension built to the maximum size allowed ie 8m, that would reach as far as the end of our garden!!! Surely that wouldn't be right!! My husband was a building surveyor before he retired and he was appalled at the proposals.

  • rate this

    Comment number 750.

    For those of us living in narrow victorian semis, with longish gardens, does it mean the neighbour can now build 8M down into the garden ?

    That would put our plot in a lot of shade.

    Why does the economy always have to grow ? When will it be the right size ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 749.

    We all know what the problem is, so let's work backwards.

    In order for someone on the min working wage to house their family, there MUST be decent social housing for about £50 per week.

    Tinkering with the planning laws won't solve the problem - all our efforts must be focussed on building social housing, which is far more important than protecting the value of rich peoples' property portfolios.

  • rate this

    Comment number 748.

    A new development of "luxury homes" has just been built near me. A friend of mine has bought one and he tells me he can't even change the type of bushes in his garden, let alone build a small wall. He will be happy to know that he can, however, now build an eight metre extension!

  • rate this

    Comment number 747.

    Matey Clegg thinks this will stimulate the economy - anyone have any idea which planet this guy lives on?

  • rate this

    Comment number 746.

    Cameron does not understand. Most of us cannot afford to have an extension built. This will only kick-start the black economy for cowboy builders. Cutting VAT on building would be better. As for the waiving of planning rules for those who CAN afford them - just wait until all the thousands of neighbourly battles commence in a couple of year's time. The red tape for planning is there for a purpose.

  • rate this

    Comment number 745.

    If Fallon, Cameron & Pickles truly believe that getting "The Planners off their backs" is the answer then why don't they just get rid of them in Local Authorities altogether & bring them into Whitehall? I thought this Govt said it wanted more Localism - sounds to me like they are taking charge at every Level of Society, and yet said Labour had taken power away - Pots & Kettles?

  • rate this

    Comment number 744.

    How can you build what you can't afford? Mr Clegg makes it sound like there are 1000s of houses and extensions waiting to be built. Yes, but they were cancelled due to the lack of access to affordable finance. Plus the hike on VAT which indiscriminately hits everything you pay for. If this is the first of the governments great growth intiatives, its a bad sign. They should retake their O levels.

  • rate this

    Comment number 743.

    @ 91.RichardJWA

    Maybe it's because the Germans don't feel the need to have an undeclared "Expenses Fund". ;)

  • rate this

    Comment number 742.

    These proposals aren't for genuine socially needed housing: they are a free licence for ruthless developers to ride roughshod over anyone in their path.

  • rate this

    Comment number 741.

    Big house builders want to build exec homes because that where they make their biggest margin. We don't need them as a nation. There are 1 million empty homes. But - they have permission for 400k or so of them. NOW

    But they don't want to build them where they have permission because things are a bit tighter than they would wish

    So their hirelings in the Tory Party jump to their command...

  • rate this

    Comment number 740.

    Utter nonsense from the Government again. I can see a sharp rise in neighbour disputes and court sessions!

  • rate this

    Comment number 739.

    So the government want to create affordable housing by increasing the number of houses built.

    If I were to invest my savings, paying 20% VAT in the process of improving my property I would want to see the value of my house go up.

    If the 3000 new houses being built as planned in my (small) town, where is my property value going? (down... )

    Thanks for nothing!

  • rate this

    Comment number 738.

    Once again the Gov seems to be doing everything it can NOT to help the real people of this country. This Planning law change will only help those who have the money to build stuff, chances are many of these people had the money anyway but were stopped by the planning laws. Surely if people extend their houses then this will only increase the selling price? How is that helping the housing market?


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