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Government moots planning free-for-all

The government has revealed proposals to temporarily remove planning requirements on house extensions and conservatories

Announced today as part of a package of measures designed to boost house building, the move would see a doubling of permitted development limits for extensions to homes.

Under the new rules households will be permitted to construct extensions of up to eight metres without the expense and delay of a planning application. Currently, only extensions of three metres on semi-detached homes and four metres on detached homes may proceed without planning permission.

Applying only to single storey projects, the initiative will not apply to loft extensions and is expected to terminate by 2015.

Businesses will also be permitted to expand shop premises by 100m² and industrial buildings by 200m².

The announcement comes just hours after planning minister Greg Clark was replaced by Nicholas Boles. Clark - who oversaw the government controversial National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) overhaul of the planning system - has moved to the Treasury to replace financial secretary Mark Hoban.

Other moves to boost housing supply announced today include:

  • Removing affordable home requirements hampering around ‘75,000 commercially unviable’, stalled homes.
  • A new £300 million capital fund will be established to deliver, with the infrastructure guarantee, up to 15,000 affordable homes.
  • An infrastructure fast track for commercial and residential applications will be setup to allow councils and developers to have decisions taken by the planning inspectorate.
  • Planning authorities which perform poorly could be placed in ‘special measures’ – allowing developers to bypass councils with more applications moving to fast track appeal process.
  • A £280 million extension to the FirstBuy scheme aiming to provide 16,500 first-time buyers help with deposits.
  • An Infrastructure Financial Assistance Bill to establish £40 billion in guarantees for major infrastructure projects and £10 billion for new homes. Housing associations and private developers would see debts guaranteed under the programme.

Prime minister David Cameron said: ‘The measures announced today show this Government is serious about rolling its sleeves up and doing it all it can to kick-start the economy. Some of the proposals are controversial; others have been a long time in coming.

Some of the proposals are controversial

‘But along with our Housing Strategy, they provide a comprehensive plan to unleash one of the biggest homebuilding programmes this country has seen in a generation. That means more investment around the county; more jobs for our people; and more young families able to realise their dreams and get on the housing ladder.’

Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg added: ‘This is a Coalition Government, determined to get on with the job of delivering a healthier economy. Today’s major boost to housing and planning will make it easier to build a home, easier to buy a first home and easier to extend a home.  A boost that will get Britain building again. Building thousands of affordable homes and generating thousands of new jobs.’

It might be years before we see a real impact on new house building

However Nelson Ogunshakin, chief executive of ACE, said: ‘Even if plans to reduce the planning and regulatory red tape do work, the process of drawing up detailed plans, getting planning permission, and putting in place construction contracts, is unlikely to be completed within 12 months.

‘So amid concerns that the new rules to ease planning permission may be challenged through the courts, it might be years before we see a real impact on new house building from this financing scheme.’

Faraz Baber, director of planning at London First, said: ‘The package of measures to reinvigorate the housing delivery is to be welcomed but unless Government resolve the problems that are currently surrounding planning taxes imposed on development, housing delivery will continue to be stifled as schemes remain financially unviable to proceed.’

If more people extend their homes, they’ll be less demand for new ones

John Hitchcox, chairman of property company Yoo, said: ‘If more people extend their homes, they’ll be less demand for new ones – further hitting the ailing construction sector which forms such a key part of our economy.

‘Rather than waste time on schemes that will help only a tiny number of people, they should revise stamp duty to get transactions moving properly. The burden of stamp duty makes it impossible for many young buyers already hit hard by cuts to tax credits and pensions.

‘At the other end of the scale, the ridiculous 15 per cent rate on £2 million homes will do us no good at all. As with most political stunts introduced to win votes rather than have any long term positive effect, it simply serves to drive away the very investment we need in the UK.’

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