Home extensions are to be subject to a new “light touch” consultation scheme for immediate neighbours and for which home owners will not be charged, the government has said.
Communities secretary Eric Pickles announced reviewed proposals for permitted developments in the Growth & Infrastructure Bill late on Friday in a bid to deal with opposition from Conservative back benchers.
However, the LGA has questioned how the new consultation scheme will be paid for while communities and local government select committee chairman Clive Betts (Lab) questioned whether the new proposals had been subject to an impact assessment. Shadow communities secretary Hilary Benn described the government’s new approach as “a humiliating climb down”.
In his Friday announcement, Mr Pickles said the new approach was “consistent with growth and with localism. We are cutting red tape and devolving power to the lowest appropriate level. We are decentralising power from the state down to local residents.”
The government’s original plan was to allow home extensions of up to 26ft without planning permission, a move which LGA environment and housing board vice chairman Clyde Loakes (Lab) described as “anti localist” when he spoke at a conference on Friday.
Speaking after the reviewed proposals were published, LGA environment and housing board chairman Mike Jones (Con) welcomed the government’s decision to adapt its plans but said there were “serious questions” about how the new proposals would work in practice.
“Government needs to clarify how this new scheme, which will require planning department to dedicate a significant amount of time and resources, will be paid for at a time when local authorities are already facing significant cuts to their budgets.”
Mr Betts has written to Mr Pickles to raise a number of concerns, including whether the new proposals could “be reconciled with the government’s policy that the planning system should be financially self sufficient”.
He also questioned whether an impact assessment had been carried out, whether the new proposals would be any quicker than the current system and what arrangements there would be for appeals.
Mr Benn also questioned how the proposals would be paid for and he criticised the government’s “cobbled together” policies for economic growth.
“This is a humiliating climb down,” he said. “David Cameron and Eric Pickles have at last been forced to admit that their cobbled together proposals which they claimed would create jobs and boost the economy were poorly conceived and hugely unpopular.”
The proposal is due to be voted on in the House of Lords this evening.
The new proposal
- Homeowners wishing to build extensions under the new powers would notify their local council with the details.
- The council would then inform the adjoining neighbours - this already happens for planning applications.
- If no objections are made to the council by the neighbours within a set period, the development can proceed.
- If objections are raised by neighbours, the council will consider whether the development would have an unacceptable impact on neighbours’ amenity.
- This is a form of ‘prior approval’ process which allows for consideration by ward councillors, and (if the council wishes) by a Planning Committee.
- There will be no fee for householders to go through this process.