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Councils object to ‘free-for-all’ planning proposals

The Government’s revised proposals to allow large home extensions without planning permission – dubbed a ‘free-for-all’ by the LGA – are being debated in the House of Lords today.

The Government’s original proposals were to allow extensions of up to 8 metres (26ft) for detached houses without planning permission, doubling the current limit. The limit would be doubled from 3 metres (9ft 10in) to 6 metres (19ft 8in) for other types of houses.

But the Government has now backtracked, and says neighbours will be able to object as part of a ‘light touch’ consultation scheme. If they do object, the council will have to consider whether the extension would have an ‘unacceptable’ impact on neighbours’ amenity, and could choose to refer it to the planning committee if necessary.

Councils and peers have said there needs to be a ‘commonsense local opt-out’ from the new plans, allowing councils to keep their current planning controls – but this was rejected by the House of Commons in a vote on Tuesday last week.

The LGA is warning that the policy will cause more disputes between neighbours, result in more unsightly development, and increase flood risk. Cllr Mike Jones, chairman of its environment and housing board, said: “Government acknowledged the flaws in this policy during the House of Commons' debate. It now needs to provide some clarity on how it will address the very serious concerns raised by councils, peers and MPs on both sides of the House.

“If this flawed policy had been allowed to go ahead unaltered it could have opened the floodgates to thousands of unsightly and inappropriate developments that would blight local neighbourhoods. It would have led to disputes between neighbours and allowed for gardens to be concreted over in flood risk areas.

“Government has gone back to the drawing board on this policy and it has to now realise that the only sensible solution is one that puts local decision making first. It would be completely wrong to infringe on people's right to have a say on development and building work near to their homes which, if badly designed, may block sunlight, invade privacy and even put a dent in the value of their homes.

“Councils completely agree that we need to stimulate the construction industry, but opening the floodgates to unsuitable development while removing neighbours’ rights to object is not the answer. Government could deliver a much bigger, and more beneficial, boost to the construction industry by removing the cap on local authorities’ housing investment, which would help councils build up to 60,000 new homes.”

In a letter to MPs at the end of last week, communities secretary Eric Pickles said: “I believe colleagues' key concern has been about potential effect on neighbours’ amenity, and the lack of any say for those neighbours.

“I propose we tackle this head on. We will seek to move ahead with these new permitted householder development rights, but introduce a new light-touch neighbours' consultation scheme.”

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email [email protected]


Cllr Ron Arundale - Conservative - Mbro   22/04/2013 at 14:54

I wish this Government would think things through before making clanger after clanger ie bedrom tax and paying a months benefit to people not used to handling money.It gives the impression of people completely out of touch with grassroots, - educated people with no common sense.

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