Home extensions: MPs warn of confusion over relaxation plan

houses Ministers say the construction sector is in urgent need of some stimulation

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The coalition has not made a "rigorous" case for allowing people in England to build larger home extensions without planning permission, MPs have said.

Ministers argue the temporary scheme will help boost the building industry.

But the Communities and Local Government Committee warned of "confusion" over the new rules and more disputes between neighbours.

The government promised a "balance" between the rights of people building extensions and those living next door.

It announced in September that the maximum length of single-storey extensions built without planning permission would be doubled from three to six metres. For detached homes the new limit would go from four to eight metres.

The relaxation, applying in unprotected areas, would last for three years, in an effort to help the construction industry, whose output fell by 5.1% in the year to October.


Prime Minister David Cameron said he was "determined to cut through the bureaucracy that holds us back".

And, in October, planning minister Nick Boles predicted the three-year period could be extended if "everybody is happy", adding that changing the law did not amount to a "crime against humanity".

But the committee raised concerns that the government's "assumptions are so tentative, broad-brush and qualified as to provide little assurance that the financial benefits suggested will be achieved".


Councils say they already approve 90% of residential planning applications, and those that are rejected are knocked back for "good reasons".

They don't understand why the government is so keen to ease these rules.

Ministers say reviving the building industry is a priority, but make no firm predictions about the economic benefits of relaxation.

They've already hinted that the new limits for home extensions (six or eight metres) could be scaled back.

They're digging in on the principle of the change, though. A full U-turn seems unlikely, as this policy was part of a major Downing Street push to revive the economy.

But some may wonder why ministers are embroiling themselves in an area of policy that really couldn't be more local.

Despite the relaxation being temporary, "the effects of the changes in terms of new development on neighbours and localities will be permanent", it added.

The MPs called for a "fresh and extensive" consultation, looking at a "range of options".

They said: "We regret that the government has failed to address or evaluate the social and environmental arguments put forward against the proposed changes to permitted development rights for domestic extensions."

They added: "If the change to permitted development rights is worth making, it should be permanent. If it is not, the change should not be made. The proposed changes need to be subject to a thorough and rigorous examination, which the consultation initiated on 12 November 2012 is not.

"Temporary changes can cause confusion and create uncertainty both at the inception of the change and in the period before its conclusion."

"We conclude that the case for the changes the government proposes to permitted development rights for domestic extensions has not been made.

"We therefore do not agree that in non-protected areas the maximum depth for single-storey rear extensions should be increased to eight metres for detached houses, and six metres for any other type of house."

Some councils have warned the scheme will be a "free-for-all". Labour also opposes the relaxation.

A Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman said: "The planning system needs to strike a balance between the rights of the homeowner and their neighbours, avoiding excessive red tape whilst still protecting local amenity.

"Our practical proposals make it easier for thousands of hard-working families to undertake home improvements to cater for a growing family and for businesses to expand and grow, and the consultation we are currently running gives people the opportunity to comment on the reforms.

"The reforms would take the majority of applications which are uncontroversial and approved out the system, while some 160,000 applications will continue to be considered through the planning system."

Infographic showing house and extension limits

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  • rate this

    Comment number 135.

    This proposal has far reaching effects. Without planning consent, house owners wouldnt need plans drawn up. So less work for architects. Without consent there would be no control over materials used giving rise to safety implications. Without consent there would be no control over building regulations with regard to drains, fire risk etc. Cash in the hand. No VAT NO TAX well done Cameron

  • rate this

    Comment number 134.

    I think we should be extending our compassion for the people who do not have a roof over their heads or live in a living space deemed unlawful for the family size. The English and their 'castles' - they were castles in the air. You still don't get that, do you?

  • rate this

    Comment number 133.

    If you live in a detached house with 6 acres this won't make much difference to you, if you live in a terraced house with a pocket handkerchief garden it could ruin your garden. Most of us live very close to our neighbours. The government are out of touch

  • rate this

    Comment number 132.

    Well it's a tiny stimulus to the construction sector, but misses the point. We need more homes, not the same number of bigger homes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 131.

    As a Parish Councillor, i'm appalled by this ill thought out proposal. It is already pretty easy to get extensions approved through the current process, and in most cases even a rejection gets overturned after modifications are made to placate neighbours. The existing system isn't broken, so don't fix it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 130.

    So the idea is to relax planning controls so that people rush to have over sized extensions built, only problem seems to be is that the government is making everyone (except the rich) poorer so that they will not be able to afford to have an extension built.

  • rate this

    Comment number 129.

    Que the mass construction of poorly insulated flat roof extensions and a golden age for cowboy builders...

  • rate this

    Comment number 128.

    I'm glad they're bringing this in - it will make getting permission for my new extension so much easier, and remove all those unnecessary planning costs. Presumably though they won't remove the building controls regulations.

  • rate this

    Comment number 127.

    Just desparation to keep our phoney economy plodding along with its obsession on house prices rather than true productive growth.

    The building industry was inflated due to the housing boom, which in turn was caused by lax lending from unscrupulous banks and complicit governments. It's all part of the same disease that has brought our economy to its knees. Why don't we want to fix this?

  • rate this

    Comment number 126.

    Building extensions is another step towards making house prices unaffordable. Government efforts should be to reduce prices.

    If property prices were lower, people could work a shorter week and thereby create more jobs and help towards achieving full employment. People could also pay more into their pension scheme thereby achieving a far more enjoyable retirement.

  • rate this

    Comment number 125.

    I do wish people would make up their minds. Labour MPs say more building should be done. Now they are saying no. Typical!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 124.

    This policy would change whole communities in places like Birmingham. Many of the Victorian terraces near Birmingham University are owned by landlords - they will build large, cheap extensions to boost their rental income. Neighbours and the character of the area will not be their concern. We have planning regulations to ensure fairness and protect our heritage. I pray this doesn't go through.

  • rate this

    Comment number 123.

    Its not your 'rights' that are being effected - its an extra freedom that is being given to homewoners

    how on earth will we ever get going again if pathetic jealous killjpoys like most on here knock every good idea the govt come up with

    you must be mostly lefties

  • rate this

    Comment number 122.

    Tax the land bagged areas. If the corporations have planning permission but are not building cause profits are not as huge as they were - make them build by taxing the land or surrender their plans. This should stimulate building. There are ex council lands e.g. schools that were given for pence to developers which lay unused- take these back and build,

  • rate this

    Comment number 121.


    While it might be hard to accept the will of the majority of democratically casted votes (and I agree that this Government is woeful) it is pretty hard to accept your criticism when you have got your facts so hopelessly wrong.

    The are not "allowing the doubling of the footprint of a house", they are allowing the doubling of an extension....quite a difference

  • rate this

    Comment number 120.

    Wow the NIMBYS really are out in force today...best one so far: "the beginning of legalised shanty towns"! What a joke! None of the other aspects of planning control, aesthetics or material use, are being changed nor any householders rights in relation to sunlight & daylight. It's just a long overdue relaxation on the use of 'mean' design parameters that exacerbate 'hutch' dwelling! Get over it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 119.

    This is a lunatic knee-jerk reaction to kick-starting the building industry. Even though I am a planning consulant and building regulations expert, I pray this 'free-for all' never gets off the ground. I sit on my local council planning committee and our authority will not be allowing this to happen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 118.

    I have got to hand it to this government, every Policy they release causes division, they are the most divisive group ever to be in charge.Our entire voting system needs overhauled to stop clowns like this getting into power with only a small potion of the electorate voting for them.No wonder Cameron knocked PR into the long grass, his party would never get elected again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 117.

    our homes are our warehouses,where are we we to put xmass stuff or should it go straight to the land fill bahumbug dum and dummmer bobobohohohoh

  • rate this

    Comment number 116.




Page 22 of 28


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