“No more dithering”: Coalition to relax planning laws…for three years!

Steeles Law Head of Planning & Environment David Merson looks at the Coalition’s proposals to revise the rules governing householder development as part of the Prime Minister's growth plan.

David Cameron has announced that he is “more determined than ever to cut through the dither that holds this country back”.

The Coalition is apparently “… 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 is therefore planning an emergency three year-long free-for-all in house extensions allowing homeowners to build up to eight metres into their gardens without local council planning permission.

The proposals have been flagged up in a Ministerial Statement issued today by Eric Pickles.

The temporary relaxation of the permitted development rights regime is proposed to remove unnecessary cost and time delays to people's improvement plans because at present planning permission is required for any change to a home that extends more than three metres from the property's rear wall in the case of a terraced property and four metres in the case of a detached property.

The consultation paper has not as yet been issued so precise details are unavailable but it is understood that it is now proposed that during the relaxation, householders will be able to build single storey extensions to extend to six or eight metres beyond the property's rear wall, depending on whether it is a terraced or detached property. Existing restrictions will continue to apply in Conservation Areas.

Further changes are also being promoted in respect of the expansion of business premises to allow shop expansion by 100 sq m and industrial units by 200 sq m up to the boundary of the premises.

There is also a U-turn on recently shelved plans to allow the change of use from commercial to residential purposes, without the need for planning permission subject to an “opportunity for authorities to seek a local exemption where they believe there will be an adverse economic impact”.

The removal of some limited householder planning control in respect of extensions and conservatories in well-to-do suburbs is unlikely, in itself, to solve the current economic crisis given the difficulties with bank lending and the ability to fund such development.

There must however be some concern about first, the short term impact that it will undoubtedly have on relations between neighbours who have different views on the impact of any development proposals that might come forward and second, the longer term impact of any unrestrained development on the places in which people continue to live and work.

Unrestrained shop and industrial extensions of the magnitude proposed could have significant long term implications although no ‘adverse economic impact’ exemption is apparently proposed for this proposal.

If you require further information or advice on any issues raised in this article or any other planning & environmental matter please contact David Merson on 020 7421 1720 or dmerson@steeleslaw.co.uk

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