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Relaxing home extension rules considered very foolish

There are grave concerns over the coalition's plans to relax plans to relax planning laws as part of an attempt to revitalise the housebuilding industry.

Ministers said this month that people could expand their homes by up to 8 metres without planning permission as part of an attempt to revitalise the housebuilding industry.

Councillors in a south-west London borough are firmly against the proposals.

“We don’t think people should be putting up 8m extensions willy-nilly. In this borough we have planning rules and we believe they need to be adhered to,” said a spokeswoman for the council.

Officials are now “reading through the proposals with legal advisers with a fine-tooth comb to identify any flexibility”, the spokeswoman said.

However, she said there were no plans to “defy” the government’s rules. Councils will have the power to block extensions where inappropriate.

The government is still consulting on relaxing the rules for three years on extensions of 6m on terraced homes and 8m on standalone homes. Previously the limit was up to 4m.

“Even the present concession is unpopular with many of our residents,” said Geoffrey Samuel, deputy leader of Richmond council. “To double it will make things very much worse … Even if it is a government of your own party, our first duty and responsibility is to our own residents.”

Concerns emerged within hours of the original announcement three weeks ago. Sir Merrick Cockell, Tory leader of the Local Government Association, has criticised the idea of relaxing affordable housing requirements, saying that this would not address the fundamental problem of a lack of mortgage finance.

Sir Merrick also questioned whether there could be negative consequences from letting people extend their homes without permission. “Any amendments to local planning rules, such as making it easier for residents to make changes to their homes, must ensure councils retain enough powers to maintain and improve the character and integrity of local areas,” he said.

A Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman said the plans had been relaxed to help thousands of people “move up the property ladder or expand their businesses” without having to relocate.

20th September 2012 The Financial Times

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