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Planning free-for-all in doubt as MPs vote on veto

The House of Commons will today vote on an amendment which could curtail government plans to allow house extensions without planning permission

The Labour party and around 20 rebel Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs – led by environmentalist Zac Goldsmith – are expected to vote in favour of the House of Lords amendment for a local authority opt out from the new permitted development rights.

Last year the government announced a three year national policy doubling the length of house extensions which could proceed without planning permission from four metres to eight metres.

The Local Government Association has backed the Lords’ amendment to the Growth and Infrastructure Bill, warning up to 22,000 home extensions otherwise ‘knocked back for good reasons’ could proceed if the policy goes ahead.

LGA environment and housing board chair, councillor Mike Jones said: ‘Imposing a home extensions free-for-all on the whole country risks opening the floodgates to thousands of unsightly and unsuitable extensions which create disputes between neighbours, impinge on garden space and increase flood risk.

‘The 22,000 applications which are rejected each year are knocked back for good reasons and it would be totally wrong if extensions, which were previously rejected due to objections from neighbours or because they were judged to blight the neighbourhood, could now sneak back in unimpeded.

‘We agree with the government that stimulating the construction industry is essential to economic recovery but sweeping national changes which remove the rights of residents to have a say on development is not the answer.’

Goldsmith said: ‘Everyone wants to see a common sense reforms to planning policy so that uncontentious developments get a green light, and planning officers are able to focus on the cases that matter.

‘But this policy simply rips up all local input and guarantees hostilities between neighbours. It is madness to remove people’s right to object to developments that threaten their homes.

‘The Lords amendment is sensible and modest, and will allow local authorities to decide for themselves if the policy suits their communities. I will back it, and know many of my colleagues will do the same.’

Planning minister Nick Boles has written to coalition MPs ahead of the vote, urging them to support the policy. His letter, seen by The Daily Mail, said: ‘Our proposed reforms should make it quicker, easier and cheaper for up to 40,000 families a year wishing to build small-scale single-storey extensions and conservatories, while respecting the amenity of neighbours.’

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