Planning rules axed

PLANNING laws will be temporarily relaxed to allow home extensions to be built without planning permission in an attempt to boost the flatlining economy, the government will announce today.

Homeowners will be allowed to build single-storey extensions that stretch up to eight metres beyond their property’s rear wall without having to jump through the existing bureaucratic hoops.

At the moment owners of terraced houses are permitted to build three metres from their back wall without resorting to official procedures and owners of detached properties can extend their home by four metres. The government’s proposals will see these limits doubled, although councils may retain some ability to veto development in conservation areas.

The government hopes that by substantially reducing the amount of paperwork required to build a conservatory, loft extension or garage conversion they can revive the construction industry and help kick-start growth across the rest of the economy.

The plan would also enable businesses to expand their shop by 100 square metres and industrial units by 200 square metres without full planning permission.

Any relaxation of the laws will be temporary with the waivers likely to end before 2015 in an attempt to make property owners commit to spending during this parliament. Approximately 200,000 planning applications are made for residential improvements every year in the UK, most of which are approved – but only after a process that often takes up to eight weeks.

There will be a swift consultation on the new measures before they are implemented later this year.

“This government means business in delivering plans to help people, build new homes and kick-start the economy,” the Prime Minister and deputy prime minister said in a joint statement.

“We’re determined to cut through the bureaucracy that holds us back. That starts with getting the planners off our backs. Getting behind the businesses that have the ambition to expand. And meeting the aspirations of families that want to buy or improve a home.”

In addition to relaxing the rules on home improvements there will also be an extension of the FirstBuy scheme to encourage new homeowners, with funding for another 16,500 new homeowners. The programme is a joint initiative between leading housebuilders and the government, providing new buyers with a loan of up to 20 per cent of their new property’s value.

The announcements come after David Cameron completed his first government reshuffle, with a pledge to focus on implementing policies to drive economic growth.