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What relaxed planning rules mean for homeowners

A conservatoryThe government has announced proposals to relax planning rules and allow homeowners to build large extensions and conservatories without planning permission.

Under the three-year scheme aimed at boosting economic growth, householders would be able to build extensions up to 8m long in their gardens without requiring approval.

The aim is to make it easier for families to undertake home improvements to cater for a growing family, as well as to generate new business for small traders and local construction companies.

What are the current rules?

At present, you can build a small single-storey rear extension or conservatory of up to three metres from a semi-detached property or four metres from a detached home without the need for town hall consent.

For all other work, consent is required, and this process can drag on for several months.

Under the changes to current rules in England which could be in place by early 2013, homeowners would be able to carry out a single-storey extension to their property of up to 8m from the rear wall without permission.

This is provided the extension doesn’t take up more than half of the garden.

This could significantly speed up applications currently in the planning process, especially as neighbours will have little right to object.

Is it worth it?

While upsizing your home can help boost its value, you need to do your groundwork first.

"There are many things you can do to your home to make it look better, and ideally, worth more," says Ben Thompson from the Legal & General Mortgage Club.

"The recent relaxation of planning rules is worth exploring, as this may make plans to extend more straightforward.

"However, when carrying out any changes to your home, you need to ensure the money is well spent."

Remember, if you are making changes to your home you are obliged to tell your home insurance provider about anything which may increase the value of the property as this could affect your policy.

You can read more about this here: Don't fall into the non-disclosure insurance trap.

Will this really get the market moving?

Some industry critics are concerned the proposals do little to address the main problems of the housing market.

"The coalition is just tinkering," says Jonathan Haward from property finding company, County Homesearch.

"While this may give a boost to local housebuilders, it will do nothing significant to improve the wider economy or the housing market."

There are also fears that if extensions are permitted without being checked, this could result in rushed, low-quality eyesore extensions being built which could detract from the value of a neighbour’s property.

The Local Government Association said it was a "myth" that planning laws were stopping housebuilding.

And Labour leader Ed Miliband warned the changes would not have the success the government is hoping for.

Planning system 'not the issue'

The Planning Officers Society also voiced concerns.

"I don’t think it’s the planning system that is the issue, it’s the wider economy," says spokesman Malcolm Sharp.

"This concentration on the local authorities and the appeals system is not going to address the problem the government is talking about."

The society is also worried that schemes that have been refused for legitimate purposes could now go ahead.

Is this a recipe for disaster?

The new proposals have already suffered a setback after being rejected by Liberal Democrat activists at the party's autumn conference on the grounds that the changes will not boost the economy and will lead to neighbourhood disputes.

At the same time, Conservative councils and MPs have also been warning that the move could provoke major disputes between neighbours – and potentially split communities.

As things stand, the plans are out for a short consultation but what happens next remains to be seen.




Esther Shaw

Esther Shaw

Esther Shaw is a regular contributor to Confused.com and is the former deputy money editor at The Independent and Independent on Sunday. Before that, she worked as a money and City reporter on The Daily Express and Sunday Express.
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