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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  • Comment number 475.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 474.

    #412 - my reply was also supposed to be slightly tongue in cheek, stupid internet and lack of being able to grin! my point was supposed to e that bringin prices down by ruining decent houses isn't a happy option for me either.

    #409 the reason I rent is because i can't afford the deposit, but when I can afford a house why would I spend all that money on a dump?

  • rate this

    Comment number 473.

    A builder with a damm good rep who has been around here ages has just been telling me that at the moment he's now living on contracts made over 4 months ago & a couple of those are defaulting because of hassle getting finance. He reckons he's not quite sure how things are going to be through next year but says it's worrying him he's having to find things now for the lads to do to fill time a bit!

  • rate this

    Comment number 472.

    If you own the land, it should be yours to do with as you please.


  • rate this

    Comment number 471.


    "...Bankruptcy enforces a charge u voluntary agreed to..."


    Where the property belongs to a natural person it may. Where it's a corporate legal persona and the corporation is dissolved, the freehold or leasehold estate may be "determined", ended.

    This happens when no heir can be found in inheritance too, after a time: escheat.

  • rate this

    Comment number 470.

    The town-scapes we like most are those that have grown ad-hoc and randomly. We visit York or Chester, we don't visit Harlow or Milton Keynes. We like the 'vernacular' of randomness..
    A house extended for a family and/or business is a treasure set against serried rows of identical houses. Remove planning constraints, let individuals be creative in meeting their requirements from the house they own.

  • Comment number 469.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 468.

    463 Eddy
    I know what you are saying, and in our legal system you are right.

    In a Libertarian society this is not the case. Land exists with or without the state, just as you do, and what you call your own. The state should protect this, not assume it owns all, & out of its generosity: grants you a freehold.

    Bankruptcy enforces a charge u voluntary agreed to over your title to other person(s).

  • rate this

    Comment number 467.

    459 Bastiat
    ' a good example of council beureaucrats making mistakes ..'

    People working for the council making a mistake! Disgraceful. Why do councils, or indeed every employer, not just employ perfect human beings who never get anything wrong?

  • rate this

    Comment number 466.


    "...There would be plenty of work for builders if..."


    ...developers would stop sitting on land with planning permission waiting for prices to rise.

  • rate this

    Comment number 465.

    If I own my own property, why should a council dictate to me what I can and cannot build on my property?

    Let me know where you live I will buy a plot of land directly opposite your front door and build a open plan public convenience on it.

    Still have the same attitude?

  • rate this

    Comment number 464.

    When the bottom finally falls out of the housing market, your going to feel pretty sick when your told your house is only worth £50K having spent £45K on a monstrous extension ... me I've downsized I'm not getting caught with a white elephant when the bubble bursts!

  • rate this

    Comment number 463.


    "...Is this is how u view the UK then?..."


    Since I defend HRA often here, you'll know it's not.

    A freehold or leasehold is private property (so its owner is protected under HRA), but both can be brought to an end (e.g. in bankruptcy) and the land returned to unburdened Crown ownership, desmesne land again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 462.

    If the government really wanted to boost the building and construction industry instead of piecemeal unplanned development it should be promoting large scale redevelopment of "sink" estates and 1960's flats that look and feel like prison "H blocks". Double benefit because peoples lives and attitudes tend to reflect the environment they live in.

  • rate this

    Comment number 461.

    There would be plenty of work for builders if banks would lend.

  • rate this

    Comment number 460.

    The problem with building an extension nowadays is the length of time it takes to get planning permission and the real cost of going through that procedure, yes there needs to be a body that oversees the process but it needs to be a lot quicker than it is at present.Having gone through 9 months of waiting only to be told I had to have wooden windows when ever other house has UPVC was mindboggolin.

  • rate this

    Comment number 459.

    @453 Ex Tory Voter
    It is a good example of Council bureaucrats making mistakes, at huge cost, with our property. Is it not acceptable? Well, the media doesn't report every incident & you'll have to do your own research to find an exact number I'm afraid.

    @440 Parallel World
    I was explaining how a fair society (a Libertarian society) would protect you. We don't have that society yet I'm afraid :(

  • rate this

    Comment number 458.

    It’s OK for neighbours to erect permanent monstrous carbuncles but… Try erecting a protest tent within the square mile to remonstrate about the planning regulations… And, guess what --- all of a sudden, that tent will become an eyesore and removed by the authorities.
    Funny old world!

  • rate this

    Comment number 457.

    If you want a bigger house then move - selfish to block out others light/views.

  • rate this

    Comment number 456.

    Those that love these new rules, are they the same people who moan about any other housing being built and use flooding, green belt etc as the excuse?


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