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 817.

    When objectors have well-grounded cases where I live, the planners will apparently go to any lengths to fumble the ball in the developer's favour, so that the objections are not taken into account. For example when a proposal goes before a committee, the officer will simply leave the objection from the summary of points raised to go before councillors.

    I'd hardly call that "on people's backs".

  • rate this

    Comment number 816.

    Read between the lines; it is changes to detached houses.
    The Building Industry has been hit badly by the recession but
    these relaxed laws in extension building will not put the building
    industry on the road to recovery.
    By not requiring planning as a residential architect my concern is for my job now, for what will be built and will the planning process really improve.

  • rate this

    Comment number 815.

    Just now
    These extensions may not need planning consent, but they will still have to get building regulations approval, so there will be some control over quality and sustainability

    Apart from the fact of public spending cuts = less planning and building control staff - still lets wait for another Wigmore Farm which the local authirity will have to pay for!

  • rate this

    Comment number 814.

    Couldn't agree more with happy dayz!

  • rate this

    Comment number 813.

    It's appalling to see such basic measures being taken.The whole economy is involved and just coming up with such lousy means to tackle the problem. The mortgage interest relief was abolished in the late 1980s, introducing this relief even on a progressive scale would definitely benefit the economy. I'm confident, the financial mortgage market need this high boost, hence the construction industry.

  • rate this

    Comment number 812.

    These extensions may not need planning consent, but they will still have to get building regulations approval, so there will be some control over quality and sustainability.

  • rate this

    Comment number 811.

    Good to see the Government trying to speed up the planning process. However for this to work you would need to change the mindset of the Planning Officers. As a developer we know to our cost they are not interested in the process being quick and easy, and have little regard for time, cost and jobs being put at risk. It isn't in their interest to be efficient, as we would need far fewer of them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 810.

    This will only affect houses built in the 1960's and earlier, as most "new" houses are too small and cramped together to built any size extension.
    The planning is a problem as it's applied to the wrong people, If applied to developers building new estates enforcing a minimum plot size, preventing people living on top of one another and the need to demolish as slum clearance in 20 years time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 809.

    I hope you're prepared to love thy neighbor!! And their extensions!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 808.

    There is also the problem of neighbours who think the can 'do it themselves'

    I have one next door who has built sheds greenhouses, 'gazebos' and conservatory, all of which are constructed worse than an average 14 year old could have built. He himself thinks they're wonderful while all around we look on despair.

    Planning laws don't cater for inadequate morons now, so heaven help us in future..

  • rate this

    Comment number 807.

    Come off it Cleggy. !!! Sort out the huge amount of " Brown Field" sites all over the country to get people living back in the towns , this will also regenerate the shops etc and leave all the green belt sites "as is "until they are needed stop handing £ms to developers and make housing for everyone achievable as per all your empty promises

  • rate this

    Comment number 806.

    About time too. Since some councils have been quite childish in previous years when someone wants to build or errect an extension. Stupid objections that are so trivial. Or like having to be forced to have a new completed building demolished because it was 10 inches over the perimeter of the planning application and wouldn't make a bit of difference either way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 805.

    I think we should encourage business or industry more than residential. A good start would be to remove the BREEAM conditions imposed upon new builds etc by the planning departments. This is making construction of new "Industrial Sheds / Offices" impossible due to the build costs etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 804.

    Tory ideas and policies working fine again...for Politicians, Banksters and 'the markets' Another spiffing wheeze, to make the 'Fat Boys' fatter and richer. Financing the demand side is the problem not planning. This from a government that merely stumbles from one failed idea to another, but never their fault... always someone else's.

  • rate this

    Comment number 803.

    If the government want to get significant spending back in the housing market to boost the economy, then they should relax the planning restrictions on Grade II listed properties. Simple!

  • rate this

    Comment number 802.

    Time for the UK population to have a serious think about current political environment e.g. no matter which party, vast majority of which have been educated to be polititians and have never had a real job, hence the reel of no sense proposals!

    On this one though here's a thought- compulsary land purchase of land currently owned by the construction sector and build affordable housing on it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 801.

    Good day to bury bad news :

    "Several MPs who lost their jobs in David Cameron's cabinet reshuffle are to get honours, it has been announced."

    Same old Tories, spin one thing and try to sneak other stuff that makes them look even more self serving past us.

    How about honours for the troops called on to supply last minute security for the Olympics ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 800.

    If you want to encourage spending on builders and reduce the deficit then start taxing the big developers for the land they are doing nothing with.

  • rate this

    Comment number 799.

    What we need is affordable housing. No-one is going to commit to a mortgage if they have no job security. Also, those on the minimum wage cant even consider buying. This change in planning rules will only benefit those with money, or dodgy landlords. But then, those are the people that vote Tory.

  • rate this

    Comment number 798.

    I live in studentville and illegal, light-blocking, access-jamming, privacy-destroying extensions have been a blight for years. Legal wrangles take years before they're (sometimes) made to take them down again. The accidental fires, overnight floodings and mysteriously collapsing walls reflect the lost faith in the will of the council to do anything about it. Now they won't even have to.


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