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Minister: planning changes 'not a done deal'

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Junior local government minister Don Foster has insisted proposed relaxations of planning laws are “not a done deal”.

Speaking after the Liberal Democrat conference overwhelmingly rejected the government’s proposed policy changes, Mr Foster said: “I want to hear your concerns, there will be a full consultation.”

Debating an emergency motion from the Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors, delegates in Brighton said planning laws were “not the reason for a failure to proceed with existing approved housing developments” and that the relaxations were contrary to localism and would encourage disputes among neighbours.

Government proposals included a three-year window in which house extensions of up to eight metres could be built without planning permission, take over by the Planning Inspectorate of decision-making where planning departments are poor performers, and allowing developers to renegotiate affordable housing commitments where they felt these were unviable.

Moving the motion, Hertfordshire CC councillor Chris White said: “There are planning departments that are less good than they should be, and some planning committees that are random, but that can be dealt with by training, not by this grotesque over-centralisation.”

Cllr White said it “beggared belief|” that the economy would be significantly stimulated by housing extensions but warned that allowing these to be built without permission would embroil councils in “a huge increase in neighbour disputes”.

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