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Opposition grows to proposed planning free-for-all

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The government’s proposals to remove planning permission for house extensions has been slammed by voters in a YouGov poll commissioned by the RIBA

According to the survey of more than 2000 people, 54 per cent of respondents claimed plans to temporarily double permitted development limits for extensions to homes would damage the quality of the design of their neighbourhood.

Meanwhile Conservative-led Richmond-upon-Thames Borough council has voted to oppose the new rules, arguing that the changes would leave neighbours ‘powerless to block large extensions’. The borough has been joined by neighbouring south-west London council Sutton which branded the reforms a ‘recipe for disaster’.

The outcry come just days after architects warned that the government’s new housing proposals could see the profession stripped of its role in designing house extensions and the RIBA raised concern that further planning reforms could undermine design quality.

As well as fears over design, the poll also revealed that the planning reforms have left half of public respondents worried about losing their influence over new extensions in their local area, with 20 per cent very worried about the changes. Only 10 per cent are not worried at all.

The government’s new policy is rushed and could pave the way for poor design

The institute claims the lack of public support for the measures mirrors its own concerns and that the proposals ‘go against the principles and commitment to quality design’ set out in the recently introduced National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

On the back of the findings and the ‘significant professional concern over the flawed proposals’ the RIBA has called on the government to ‘ensure adequate safeguards are put in place to prevent poorly-designed new extensions’ and to ‘consider the private cost to future owners who may need to rectify mistakes of poorly designed extensions built without appropriate checks and balances’. 

Former RIBA president and the chair of the institute’s 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.

‘We agree that there is a need to reduce the red tape in our current planning system but as the British public have clearly expressed, this policy change must be more carefully considered to ensure we make our neighbourhoods better not worse.’

Local communities are worried about the loss of their voice in many planning applications

Commenting on the survey results, Kate Henderson, TCPA chief executive added: ‘An effective and efficient planning system must balance economic imperatives with social and environmental justice – it must also be transparent and democratically accountable.

‘[This] poll shows that local communities are not only worried about the design implications of the Government’s further deregulation of planning laws, but also over the loss of their voice in many planning applications.’

Other comments about the proposed planning reforms:

Councillor Peter John, leader of Southwark Council, said: ‘We don’t believe that policy is a barrier to progress;demonstrated not only in the homes to be built as part of our regeneration plans and in the landmark buildings which now exist on the London skyline, but in committing to build 1,000 new council homes too at a time when this is considered virtually impossible by some authorities.
‘Anecdotally, developers say that the single biggest problem in increasing demand and supply of housing is still first time buyers being unable to access mortgages. Whatever the reason, I believe that where there’s a will there is always a way.’



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