Some two and a half months after Eric Pickles stood up in Parliament and announced that the Government planned to ease the rules relating to residential extensions the promised consultation period has finally begun.
In case you missed the announcement the most significant part was a proposal that the owners of terraced or semi-detached properties will be able to build a single storey extension of 6m from the rear of their property (instead of 3m) without applying for planning permission. Owners of detached properties will be able to build out to 8m (instead of 4m). The amendments are to remain in force for 3 years. The Government promised that the changes would ‘slash planning red tape, sweep away unnecessary rules and bureaucracy and help tens of thousands of homeowners’.
Unlike the Government, those opposed to the scheme have been making plenty of noise since the announcement.
The Local Government Association (LGA) declared that the proposals would lead to ‘unsightly, out of place development’. The chair of its Environment and Housing Board commented that ‘This policy potentially gives the green light to unsightly and out-of-place development without delivering a big enough boost to the construction industry to justify the potential damage’. It is thought that the Government will struggle to force the changes through without the support of the LGA.
Chair of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Planning Group, Ruth Reed said: “The Government’s new policy is rushed and if implemented could pave the way for poor design decisions which could damage our built environment for years to come. A YouGov poll commissioned by RIBA found that 54 per cent of respondents believed the proposals would mean the quality of the design of their neighbourhood would get worse.
Perhaps tellingly, a motion to withdraw the proposals at the recent Liberal Democrat Conference was overwhelmingly passed by members leading the LibDem Communities Minister, Don Foster, to promise that ‘this is not a done deal’.
We carry out a fortnightly review of planning applications in the boroughs that surround our 2 surveying offices and we noticed a sharp drop in the number of residential planning applications immediately following the announcement; approximately 50%. It was obvious that homeowners planning extensions to their homes were adopting a ‘wait and see’ attitude.
Applications have since returned to normal levels suggesting that homeowners either got fed up waiting or have lost faith that the proposed changes will ever come in to force.
Consultation runs through to 24th December so if you feel strongly about the issue take this opportunity to have your say.