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 115.

    The only reason they're3 coming up with ideas like this is because they know house prices are still too high but they don't really want to do anything about it because people would start to lose their homes. They're protecting all the people who paid too much for their houses.

  • rate this

    Comment number 114.

    a good thing in one sense,but could have consequences. what ever development is done will still have to conform to building regs, doesnt alter the fact that some will see it as green light to construct ugly or shanty style add ons below the local council radar,may have an adverse effect in the long run.
    govt havent thought this out

  • rate this

    Comment number 113.

    I totally reject this idea that we can somehow "build" our way out of this economic crises by building more houses, extensions shopping centres etc.

    It was building related debt that got us into this mess

    Instead we should be investing in exports (eg green technology) and
    sustainability (eg solar panels on every roof) to protect us from the coming global resource shortages

  • rate this

    Comment number 112.

    Only stimulated 1 such extention in our area. The local builders house. Yet again a panic measure by an inept coalition.

    House prices are still too high and until they are allowed to find their true level nothing will change.

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    #94 - my thoughts exactly. I voted for Cameron's government and I like the guy, but this is a crackpot idea destined to further blight communities with unsightly, ill-conceived, poorly built and inappropriate developments.

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.

    I live close to the old Longbridge car factory site. A plan to build new homes was agreed years ago. So far only a few have been built. The rumours are that because the market is depressed they won't be able to make enough profit from the houses. If it's true I believe it's wrong - the government should be addressing this

  • rate this

    Comment number 109.

    As if Britain doesn't have a big enough problem with flooding already so the government exacerbates the problem by increasing the volume of water entering the already overwhelmed drainage systems with thousands of square miles of extra roofs channeling water into the drains instead of open ground that would absorb water.

  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    I suspect most people who agree with these proposals have the money to build such extensions and see the regulations as holding them back. This is rather a selfish attitude. Its the people stuck in the middle between two large extensions who cannot afford to pay for such luxuries, who will find themselves looking out of their back windows along a dark tunnel.

  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    This is a sop to accommodate massive over immigration and the large families this has encouraged It wiil cause shoddy building and become problematic. Something has to done and this will be the cheapest and aesthetically worst option.

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    How can you have a temporary law ?
    This will turn into a simple free for all, and will be impossible to rescind.
    To get the housing market to kick start what we need is a TOTAL planning ban on ALL new properties on gardens or green field sites until all grey and brown field sites have been used up, and have zero VAT
    So simple that the very average politician will not possibly grasp the concept.

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    whats wrong with a 20ft single story extension?

    you already have a 6ft high garden fence seperating your properties - i have an extension built next to me and I hardly notice it, quite like the extra privacy it brings to the garden in fact

    stop being pathetic jealous killjoys

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    There's more to the economy than construction. Or have Dave & George bought B&Q et al?

    Is this the best they can come up with?

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    This has stimulated loads of minor extensions where I live. Surely that's good for the economy?

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    It is almost certain that the neighbour in the house will be moving to next year will be taking up their 8m allowance, and there will be nothing we can do about it. Thank you very much coalition government. A vote for UKIP next methinks.

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    What a staggering avalanche of moaning. I'm going to have a mince pie to cheer myself up.

    The government has made it easier for people to extend their houses, and almost all the comments so far are negative. I see no problem with the change, we've just done an extension, it was before the change in rules. With these new rules I could have avoided planning and saved money, which is a good thing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    There are reasons we don'y build on every shred of land.
    If gardens are built over, where do you think rainwater will go?
    It certainly won't be absorbed into the ground. There will be an increase in surface run off, so an increase in flooding...that'll help 'get Britain back on its feet'(!)

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    Before you extend,think,why are they letting you do this without planning permission.they'll let you do this and then when they reassess your council tax in a few years time(which they will).guess what,you'll be put in a higher band,meaning more revenue for the government,less money in your pocket.

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    #88 The 'resources' for building extensions come from the home owners own savings/mortgage equity release...... so no it wouldn't be better if this money was spent on flood defences or building new housing stock because its not public funds.

    On topic an 8M extension would double the size of my house (really). Its ridiculous that I could build that without planning permission

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    I favour a relaxation in planning laws but this looks more like a free for all than a planning policy. We need to 1) improve the efficiency and speed of the existing planning application process 2) re-educate obstructive and autocratic planners and their committees 3) remove ambiguity from the existing 2008 GPDO.

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    I think this is the beginning of legalised shanty towns. Do these relaxed rules take into account materials use, like corrugated roofs & metal sheets & wooden planks & tarpaulins? It could all be a legalised EYESORE! Also, loss of privacy if extension has balcony roof on it, they can see into my garden. SO MUCH FOR GOOD FENCES MAKE GOOD NEIGHBOURS! What a hodgepodge! Planning? Muddle more like.


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