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 555.

    @552 Billythefirst
    I'm discussing in a property context in those egs. Harm is an outside party directly, or indirectly, affecting your property (or you personally) in a way that damages or reduces ur ability to enjoy/utilise your land freely.

    In a free society you are free to do what ever you want on your property, as long as you don't harm someone else or their property without their consent.

  • rate this

    Comment number 554.

    I also foresee deaths as neighbours take their arguments to extremes, but I expect this government ot press on with this air-brained scheme regardless of what we the people think or say.

  • rate this

    Comment number 553.

    550. ardentcentralist
    Haha, I love it. As soon as an rational argument reveals your socialism for what it is, it's beddy bise for Lenin.

    Ur name gives u away. Let's follow the philosophy of your name sake to it's conclusion: http://thepeoplescube.com/images/WaybackWhen_WorkersPar_220.jpg

    Have a Merry Christmas. Santa wears red & gives freebies away too (but it's a fantasy like socialism) ;)

  • rate this

    Comment number 552.


    Bastiat, call me picky but might I suggest your examples were inappropriate, in the same way as, say, using the words Frances Maude and enlightened thinking in a single sentence.

    Maybe you should attempt a definition of common?

  • rate this

    Comment number 551.

    It is hard to say that this Government is idealogical, because it does not have any overriding theme or idea. Dog whistle politics is probably a better description. However such politics are only superficially successful, as those who welcome them soon have second thoughts when they realise their own interests will be damaged by such policies. A lot of chickens will come home to roost in 2014-15.

  • rate this

    Comment number 550.

    Bastiat - 'Classic abuse from someone losing a debate', often a socialist' Ah, that would be the reasoning of a fascist would it? Good night, I have better things to do than trade insults with someone who has so clearly lost the debate, to say nothing of the plot!

  • rate this

    Comment number 549.

    545 ardentcentralist
    Lets dissect this comment :D

    "how dare you compare do as you please... & slavery"
    - I said do as you please AS LONG AS YOU DON'T HARM OTHERS.

    "U want a world without civilised laws of behaviour?"
    - I challenge u to prove where I said that.

    "I suggest you up sticks & go... fight for scraps there."
    - Classic abuse from someone losing a debate, often a socialist.

    Thnx comrade

  • rate this

    Comment number 548.

    @544 PLFKid

    It's basic John Locke stuff. You are free to do what ever you wish, as long as you don't inhibit others from pursuing their freedom. If you do, then the state should protect the injured party from the aggressor.

    Eg: Property law. I can dig a well in my back yard, but if I strike water on my land which it flows onto yours, flooding you, you have legal recourse against me: damages etc

  • rate this

    Comment number 547.

    Will I need planning permission for a moat and duckhouse under this new unregulated building policy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 546.

    @543 Billythefirst
    "Define harm"
    This is a very accepted common law principle. A few egs:

    If I commence fracking for gas on my land & contaminate the water of the neighbouring 1,000 homes, I am liable for insanely huge damages.

    If I build a 3 story apartment & robbing ur cottage of its natural light (without your permission), u can seek damages & prohibit me from building via an injunction.

  • rate this

    Comment number 545.

    Bastiat - how you dare to compare not being able to do just as you please with your 'devil take the hindmost' attitude to your fellow citizens, and slavery, is not remotely funny, or rational. You want a world without civilised laws of behaviour? I suggest you up sticks and go somewhere more in keeping with your philosophy. You might try Syria, Rwanda, or the DRC. They fight for scraps there.

  • rate this

    Comment number 544.

    @ Bestiat

    I honestly do not know what to say! From your last response there appears to be more to this than planning issues!

    The majority of things you mention you already have the freedom to do! Therefore you are FREE! Planning guidance and law are not an affront to freedom! They protect everyone's freedom as well as your own when a neighbour wants to build an 8m extension along your boundary!

  • rate this

    Comment number 543.

    But if I am going to anything with my private property, provided it isn't going to harm my neighbours' properties
    Define harm - from your neighbour's perspective.
    Replicate for all the other neighbours.

  • rate this

    Comment number 542.

    It's a disaster waiting to happen

  • rate this

    Comment number 541.

    540 PLFKid

    I would say that if I can't without permission:
    keep my wages
    say what I want
    charge or pay what I want for a product
    buy a means of self-defense
    choose to work for any wage
    paint my house a certain colour, or put an extra room on it
    give my home to my children without taxing it
    *Then I am not free, that I live at the approval & good graces of someone else. I am effectively a slave.

  • rate this

    Comment number 540.

    @ Bestiat

    A "planning principle" is...Mass and bulk, design, street scene etc. All principles that are not necessarily covered by everyday law!
    Planning guidance is not telling people how to live your life. I would say that if you need to build an extension then your house is no longer fit for purpose!

  • rate this

    Comment number 539.

    535 PLFKid
    "...destroying other peoples lives!"
    Telling people how to live their lives & what they can do with their property destroys lives.

    The opposite; freedom, provided it doesn't inhibit others from pursuing the same freedoms, does NOT destroy lives.

    A planning inspectorate is just another excess, fickle, bureaucrat governing by edict devoid of venerable legal principles of justice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 538.

    You would have thought that even this Government could have got this simple initiative right!
    Why did they not consult with Local Government before formulating their proposals.
    If they can't get something as simple as this right, what can they get right?

  • rate this

    Comment number 537.

    @ Bestiat

    I must say I am enjoying our debate! And lovely use of the word sophistry!

    However planning principles are defined by the courts and the planning inspectorate! I do not disagree that people cannot extend their properties, merely there is a line and it is this line that is up for debate! But the governments proposals simply put are ill thought and fail to look at the bigger picture!

  • rate this

    Comment number 536.

    535 PLFKid
    I don't know where to begin with your sophistry.
    U think that not requiring people to seek permission from a bureaucrat, to enjoy their property provided this doesn't adversely impact others, destroys lives?

    Plz define a "planning principle" if you can.
    The only principles here are moral, which the courts recognised in law: eg right to enjoyment from trespass, negligence, nuisance etc


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